Tuesday, July 30, 2013

The Taste of Mexico Returns Oct 11, Presale Ends July 31

The Taste of Mexico is returning on October 11, and you have until July 31 to get special presale pricing of $50 VIP admission ($20 off with code LASFF13) and $40 general admission ($10 off with code LASFF) on their website
Some of the best Mexican restaurants in LA like La Casita Mexicana, Coni Seafood, La Guelaguetza, and Mexikosher will be there, along with various tequila, wine, and Cerveza Victoria to quench your thirst.
Last year, the Guelagetza siblings even got these sweet outfits for mixologists Steve Livigni and Pablo Moix.

Monday, July 29, 2013

Win 2 Tickets to Plate By Plate (Saturday, August 3)!

Plate by Plate is the annual fundraiser for Project by Project, which chooses a different nonprofit cause in the Asian American community each year. This year's event, which benefits East West Players, promises to be quite amazing with restaurants such as Bestia, Allumette, Alma, Petty Cash, Stella Barra, Park's Finest BBQ, Rivera, and so many more participating (and Drunken Udder for dessert)! For a complete list of the restaurants and beverage sponsors, check out this page.

There will also be tons of beverage sponsors including The Bruery, Rebel Winery, and various sake.

The event will take place this Saturday, August 3 at The Vibiana Cathedral in downtown and it's not too late to get tickets!
The tickets are $150 for general admission which starts at 7pm, and $250 for VIP admission which starts at 6pm and gets you access to the VIP lounge (with my favorite bar, 1886, along with Kali Dining and other exclusives).

Or ... you can try and win 2 General Admission tickets to the event by entering below!
The contest will end at 11pm on Thursday, August 1, and I will inform the winner on Friday morning. Be sure to check your emails and confirm immediately so I can tell the event coordinators. Good luck!

Healthy Vegan Cuisine at Dr. J's Vibrant Cafe (Downtown LA)

Being a food blogger is hazardous, so a healthy, vegan dinner is a welcome change once in a while. Recently this came to me with a preview dinner at the new Dr J's Vibrant Cafe in downtown LA.


Dr J The owner of Dr J's is the young man in the picture who opened this cafe to honor his mother and her cooking. His mother is the cute little woman next to him. Story was that he got really sick after attending college and was supposed to go on life long medication, but his mother, Dr. J, told him to try eating her pure, clean eating lifestyle before going on the medication. As you can guess, he got better and no longer needed his medication. Now he wants to spread this lifestyle by opening the cafe.

What I liked about Dr. J's Vibrant Cafe is that the food is not only vegan but actually healthy - as in low sodium, low sugar etc. Some vegan or vegetarian places around didn't actually seem that healthy to me because they tend to be overly salty to make up for the lack of meat or dairy. The food here, like the kale salad, quinoa spring salad, or brown rice medley, tasted healthy but still has enough flavor (the rice noodle one was still a bit bland to me)
Of the ones I tried, I really liked the brown rice medley (with peas, onions, carrots, and tofu) and the Curried Potatoes with carrots, green beans, and peas.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Paiche (Marina del Rey)

After Picca and Mo Chica, Ricardo Zarate is moving further south with Paiche in Marina del Rey.
The name Paiche comes from a type of fish from the Amazon, but you can't just use the name without serving it, so Paiche does indeed serve paiche. Of course, I had to try some and went for the Paiche tiradito (Amazonian fish, aji amarillo lemon vinaigrette, tamari, sweet potato mousse - $10)
In keeping with their other restaurants, the cocktails here are worth trying. The cocktail program is helmed Deysi Alvarez who has been working with Zarate and Stephane Bombet at the previous restaurants. One of my favorites is The Last Ice Age (Pisco Porton, Hakushu whiskey 12yr, egg white, lime, lemon, evaporated simple syrup, Fernet Branca drops - $13)
It's frothy without being too sweet or rich, this will be nice for the summer nights ahead.

For appetizers, I suggest the Yuquitas (stuffed yucca beignets, Manchego cheese, grated parmesan - $8)
These beignets are quite unique. They're pretty light, chewy, and the combination of fried yucca and creamy cheese is delicious.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

A Taste of Canada. Eden at The Rimrock Resort (Banff, Canada)

I really wanted to get some foie gras while I was in Canada, and a quick search landed me at Eden Restaurant at The Rimrock Resort in Banff. This is white tablecloth service rarely seen in Los Angeles. We got a table by the window with a view of the mountains. Dinner starts with the server bringing the champagne cart.

IMG_5804I wanted to indulge but didn't want to spend too much so I opted for the cheapest one, a Chandon Rose. I don't know if they normally refill your champagne, but they refilled mine all night long. Apparently since we were the last table on a Sunday night, they figured they might as well finish off the bottle they opened for my order! Lucky!

Our first amuse bouche was a fried duck confit served on a pine log.
Fried Duck Confit
The bread basket was served with Hay smoked butter, whipped olive oil w aged balsamic, goat's milk butter. The most interesting of the bread was the Flax seed bread.
More amuse bouche: Alaskan king crab and confit beef tongue. I loved the confit beef tongue.
First course: Juniper smoked sturgeon on top of rock coho white salmon, Bloody Caesar sorbet
Smoked Sturgeon

Canada Restaurants

Calgary Food Tours (with Yellow Door Bistro)

Lake Louise
Hotel: Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise
Walliser Stube

Eden Restaurant at Rimrock Resort

Au Pied de Cochon

Quebec City
La Traite at Wendake

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Spicy Lamb Stew at Cui Hua Lou (Monterey Park, CA)

If you like lamb, Cui Hua Lou is a place for you. This corner place in a strip mall (really, everything's in a strip mall in this town). It's a large menu, but luckily Chinese restaurants tend to number the dishes by what they think is their specialty. So, of course, we got the no. 1, "Stewed Lamb in Casserole" ($21.99).

The lamb stew is large, enough to feed 3-4 people. We tried finishing it with two people but couldn't quite do it, and my friend and I ate a lot! The stew is served in a this electric pot which they plug in after bringing it to your table.

They'll tell you to wait white the stew boils. Such spicy and flavorful broth, tender lamb meat on the bone, tofu, and cabbage. A very satisfying meal for lamb lovers! It may be kind of hot for the summer nights, but at least the restaurant has air conditioning!
If that's not enough lamb for you, they do have spiced lamb skewers and many more dishes. In case you need vegetables to feel less guilty or something. The lamb skewers aren't as good as Feng Mao's but they're cheaper.

食上烤吧 Cui Hua Lou

920 E Garvey Ave
Monterey Park, CA 91755
(626) 288-2218
Cui Hua Lou on Urbanspoon

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Saturday July 20: Support Torrance Memorial, Attend Evening Under the Stars

Los Angeles is not the only one with food festivals, South Bay has their own, too. Hosted by American Honda at its Torrance campus, Evening Under the Stars gathers some of the best in South Bay restaurants while raising funds for Torrance Memorial Medical Center. Disneyland Resort Sommeliers will be serving 80 different wines while educating the guests and saxophonist Kenny G will be the entertainment of the night.

Some of the restaurants and bars that will be there include Alpine Village, Fleming’s Prime Steakhouse & Wine Bar, Gonpachi at Miyako Hybrid Hotel, Jackson’s Food & Drink, Nothing Bundt Cakes,  Ortega 120, Riboli Family Wine Estates, and The Strand House.

The festival will take place from 6 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. Tickets are $150 per person, $250 per pair or $4,000 for table sponsors (10 guests per table) and can be purchased by calling the Chamber at 310-540-5858, the Torrance Memorial Health Care Foundation at 310-517-4703, or by visiting www.TorranceMemorial.org.
Tickets can only be purchased online until noon, Friday July 19.

Neal Fraser Serves Up Gourmet Hot Dogs at Fritzi Dog (The Original Farmers Market, Los Angeles)

I usually shy away from the processed meat that is hot dog, but Chef Neal Fraser (BLD) changed my perception with his gourmet hot dogs at Fritzi Dog, all made with humanely-raised, organic meat. There's a dog for everyone at this stand inside The Original Farmers Market.

You can build your own by choosing one of the many options: Porker Dog (pork with French spices and curry), Deli Dog (classic Kosher style all beef dog), Bird Dog (turkey and duck with mesquite), Stadium Dog (smoky pork and beef), Cali Dog (beef, pork, spicy Merguez and Chilean Merken), and for the vegetarians there's the Carrot Dog. You can get the original bun or switch it up with the pretzel bun, and they have something for the gluten-free folks, too.
Overwhelmed by the choice of toppings? Try one of the signature creations. Most of the dogs are $6.25 or $8.95 as a combo with fries or tots. There are a couple of special ones that cost more.

The signature dogs include fun flavors like the Tokyo Dog (Porker Dog, wasabi aioli, peas, Sriracha ketchup, nori )
Finishing touches like the crispy pea crumbles make Neal Fraser's hot dogs extra special. The dogs are all great, with a nice snap to them, but if I have to pick a favorite it might be the Cali Dog!

My favorite signature dog was the Garlic Dog (Cali dog on pretzel bun, garlic aioli, crispy onions)
One big reason is probably because I love garlic! But I also love the slightly chewier pretzel bun and the flavors of the Cali dog.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Kyushu & Okinawa Fair at Mitsuwa, Back on July 18-21

I love going to Mitsuwa during their various regional fairs and the Kyushu and Okinawa Fair is returning on July 18-21, featuring some very fun food items. They sell most of the stuff at all the Mitsuwa Marketplace locations including Costa Mesa and San Diego, but the most complete one is Torrance (check out this page to see which store is selling what)

My favorite from last time was the caramel pudding with cream in a choux pastry! They're not doing the caramel one this year but they'll have a strawberry pudding in a choux pastry :D I'll definitely be trying that.
Last year they had tonkotsu ramen from Ramen Tatsuno-ya but unfortunately they'll only be in San Jose this time around. Instead, we'll have Hakata Nagahama Ramen from Tanaka Shoten.

Sunday, July 14, 2013

July 21: Angeleno Mag's Live and Dine LA (+ 2012 recap)

Live and Dine LA is Angeleno Magazine's celebration of their Restaurant Issue, and it's always one of my favorite events, featuring LA's best restaurants at the beautiful Fairmont Miramar Hotel and Bungalows. This year's event will start at 4:30 pm on Sunday, July 21. Tickets are $95 and can be purchased on http://2013liveanddinela.eventbrite.com/. This year, the VIP ticket gets you two nights of extravaganza. The $250 VIP ticket (can be purchased here) gets you a four-course dinner made by Chefs Ray Garcia, Michael Voltaggio, and Ricardo Zarate with wine and cocktail pairing, and also admission to the main tasting event on July 21.

Live and Dine LA is more about quality rather than quantity, but there are still way more than enough food. Here are some my favorite bites from last year:
Blue Cow Kitchen and Bar served Mendocino's pork belly banh mi atop a banh xeo (Vietnamese "crepes")

Chef Ray Garcia from FIG served nose-to-tail pork tacos, displaying this impressive bowl of just that.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Dine LA Menu Preview: Loteria Grill, Summer 2013

Mark your calendars for this summer's Dine LA Restaurant Week on July 15-26. To help you decide where to go, here's a preview of Loteria Grill's Restaurant Week dinner menu, available at their Studio City, Santa Monica, and Hollywood locations.

The Loteria Grill menu is $35 for 3 courses and there are three choices for appetizers:
Huarache Azul de Medallon de Res (blue corn masa oval disk with black beans, grilled beef medallion, roasted tomatillo and Poblano salsa, queso anejo, cilantro, onion)

Cuarteto de Sopecitos de Camaron (four mini shrimp sopes, two with Morita salsa, two with salsa verde cruda, black beans, avocado, crema Mexicana)
Mini Sopes
I really liked the sopecitos and we argued which salsa we liked better. The morita is creamier while the salsa verde had a fresher taste.

The vegetarian option is Crema de Elote (cream of white corn soup, roasted corn, Poblano chile strips, quesillo de Oaxaca, crispy corn tortilla)
Crema de Elote
The slightly sweet corn soup is poured over the cheese, corn, chile, and tortilla so that the cheese melts.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Bison Fondue at Walliser Stube, Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise (Alberta, Canada)

Walliser Stube at The Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise serves fondues and Swiss-German dishes. What does Lake Louise have to do with Switzerland and why does Chateau Lake Louise have a Swiss restaurant inside the restaurant? So Lake Louise is where Canadians first delve into mountaineering and after one fell to his death while climbing, Canadian Pacific hired professional mountain guides from Switzerland to lead guests.

The restaurant is divided into a few dining rooms. The one we were in is pretty casual. You can get a set menu with appetizers and fondue or you can order a la carte.
Bread service

The non-fondue menu changes seasonally and appetizers may include things like Rabbit and Cornish hen pave wrapped in leek, with sweetbreads
Some are pretty much mainstays, though, like the "Jager" Forest Mushroom Spatzle Skillet (housemade spatzle/dumplings, sauteed wild mushrooms, arugula, onion, gruyere cream sauce, emmental gratin
The dish is quite rich and satisfying.
Main entrees include dishes with local trout, local Alberta beef rib tenderloin and bison rib eye, and Wiener Schnitzel. But, I had to try the fondue. I'm sure most of you have had fondue before at The Melting Pot or some other place. There's the well-known cheese fondue, and there's also the meat fondue cooked in beef bouillon, served with a variety of sauces as shown on the left. My favorite is the herb and garlic sauce.

The cheese fondue is made of Gruyere, Emmental, Appenzeller cheese, and white wine. The finishing touch is of your choice, with the traditional choice being Kirsch, a type of cherry brandy. I, of course, chose black truffle! Black truffle shavings in my cheese fondue, yum.
Truffle Fondue

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise, Canada

One can easily see why Fairmont decided to build Chateau Lake Louise where it is: right next to mirror-like Lake Louise, surrounded by the snow-capped mountain of Banff National Park. Everything is reflected upon the water of Lake Louise with astounding clarity.

To enjoy Lake Louise, all you have to do is exit the back doors of the Fairmont hotel.
The Chateau is surprisingly a great base for nature and hiking lovers. There are trails accessible both to the left and right of this point. There's an overlook a short hike to the left. To the right there's a walking trail that goes to the other end of the lake (one hour round trip) and along the way are access points to other, longer trails including Lake Agnes (4.4 miles)

Friday, July 5, 2013

Vintage Enoteca, A Friendly Wine Bar With A Female Sommelier

Female chefs have gotten more attention lately, but it's still pretty rare to find a female sommelier. Well, you can meet one at the very approachable Vintage Enoteca in Hollywood: Danielle Francois. It's not a frou-frou wine bar, but a friendly, casual place where locals hang out or go on a date while trying some interesting wines. In fact, while Danielle is the in-house sommelier and part-owner, the other owner is also a woman.

Owners Danielle Francois and Jennifer Moore worked in advertising in New York City. Tired of the of the advertising world, they moved to Los Angeles and opened Vintage Enoteca, wanting to create "a casual environment to explore and sip interesting vino and eat simple, yet delicious tapas that complements the wine." 

They opened Vintage on June 1st 2010 and Danielle went on to get her sommelier certification with The Court of Master Sommeliers. I took a look at the wine and beer list and was surprised at the number of unfamiliar names and varietals on both. I mean, I thought I've learned quite a bit about beer and wine over my blogging years, but still. There was Scheurebe from the Rheinhessen, a Grignolino from Piedmont or a Blaufrankish from Burgenland. The only word I recognize there was Piedmont!

Anyway, I came in for a casual wine pairing dinner, starting off with a refreshing glass of Pascal Bellier "Reverie" Brut Rose from Loire Valley, France. This sparkling rose is 100% made of pinot noir grapes and going to be perfect in the summer months to come.

The food, as they claimed, is simple and affordable. The small bites are $6 and all the salads, flatbreads, and paninis are $10.

While it wasn't on the tasting menu, one of the other writers had heard a lot of their Crispy Duck Cracklings Salad ($10) and wanted to try it. The salad was composed of blue cheese, blistered baby tomatoes, arugula, creme fraiche dressing, and topped with duck cracklings.
I'm glad we got to try this salad, tossed with the right amount of dressing. Of course, it's the duck cracklings that made it special.

Asparagus Salad (English pea, pickled fennel, chorizo chips, herb anchovy vinaigrette - $10)
This was paired with Palomino: La Cigarrera Manzanilla NV, Sanlucar de Barrameda, Spain.
Nope, not a white wine. This is a sherry! This dry sherry pairs very well with the anchovy vinaigrette, cutting the saltiness and fishiness. Danielle explains that the dry sherry pairs well in general with salty snacks.

Monday, July 1, 2013

Greenleaf Gourmet Chopshop Starts Juicing

Greenleaf Gourmet Chopshop has been a popular destination for salad and other healthy breakfast and lunch options, with more locations slowly popping up. Recently, they've also started offering juices to meet their customers' demands. Their executive chef, Kristi Ritchey, explains that there are two types of juicers The centrifugal juicers are high speed and create heat. This type of juicer separates juice from the pulp. On the other hand, Greenleaf uses a slow speed juicer which extracts more fiber from the ingredients. I came in to taste the juices on my own.

Red grape juice
Greenleaf sells pure juices including carrot and tomato ($5.95), orange, grapefruit, green apple, and red grape pure juices ($6.95). If those prices seem high, keep in mind that these are all 20oz servings and use higher priced ingredients. Even though red apple is cheaper, Kristi decides to use Granny Smith apple for the juice because it gives a crisper flavor. They also use red grapes instead of the cheaper green grapes because the green ones have a metallic aftertaste.

You can also build your own juice for $6.95, for which you can select three main ingredients like kale, apple, pineapple, cucumber, etc and add one accent like ginger, celery, jalapeno, mint, or parsley. All the juices can be sold in a sealed bottle to take home (they do suggest consuming anything with ginger within a day, though).
If you're baffled by the choices, just go with one of their signature juices.

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