Sunday, March 30, 2014

Cocktail Social at Rok Sushi (Hermosa Beach, CA)

By: guest blogger Bryan Tsunoda

Now that winter is officially behind us, Rok Sushi took the opportunity to develop new craft cocktails to get us into the mood for spring. I recently attended an event to sample some of their newest additions.

Rok Sushi offers Japanese fusion cuisine as well as entrees such as Chilean seabass, baked salmon filet and sesame crusted ahi. The restaurant’s décor is casual modern Japanese and depending on your mood, you can quietly sip a cocktail by the bar, watch the sushi chef in action or dine with family members.
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The Bubbly Cali was the first of their new craft cocktails for spring. Rok Sushi uses an excellent sparkling wine from the Russian River region - J Vineyards, as the foundation to the Bubbly Cali. They add No 209 Gin, Medlock Ames Verjus and simple syrup. I found the drink to be loaded with citrus and quite refreshing.

Next up was the Shishito Pepper Martini. Blistered shishito peppers is a fairly common appetizer, but I’ve never seen it in a cocktail. Rok Sushi infuses shishito peppers into vodka and adds, simple syrup, Combier orange liqueur, lime juice and drops a whole shishito pepper in the glass. Shishito peppers are not spicy by nature; in fact I ate mine as I sipped on the tasty martini.
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Saturday, March 29, 2014

Amor Y Tacos: High End Mexican Food in Cerritos

I never thought I would be eating anything in Cerritos, a name I had only associated with car dealerships before. Now, the group from Ortega 120 down in Redondo Beach has opened Amor Y Tacos - in a strip mall, of course. The interior is fun and spacious. 
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As soon as you walk in, you see them making fresh tortillas. Good sign!
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A popular appetizer is the Mole Tots ($7.50): crispy tater tots, 21-ingredient housemade mole, queso fresco, cilantro, red onion, sour cream
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People put many things on tots, I wonder why no one had thought of mole sooner. I just wish they had put MORE mole sauce on this dish!


Thursday, March 27, 2014

April 6: Ninth Ultimate Wine Festival in Manhattan Beach (and 2013 Recap)

If you're looking for a wine event filled with big names like Opus One and Silver Oak, then you should consider the Ultimate Wine Festival, coming up on April 6, 2014 at The Shade Hotel in Manhattan Beach. 

The event costs $125 pp with tastings from 3-6pm, or $200 to get into the Reserve Magnum Tasting from 2-6pm. Considering the ticket price of some of these wines, it's a pretty good value if you enjoy your wines!

There are around 50 wineries participating in all. Last year, I found old favorites like The Prisoner and Faust ...
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... and ome new ones including Villa Creek from Paso Robles, who makes Rhone varietals, and Chappellet from Napa.
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Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Ascendant Spirits, Santa Barbara's First Craft Distillery

Beers and even wines are aplenty in the lands of Southern California, but we're not exactly known for our distilleries. Not yet, anyway, but craft distilleries like Ascendant Spirits are looking to change that.


Ascendant Spirits, which is located in Buellton, is the first craft distillery (after prohibition) in the Santa Barbara area, producing moonshine, bourbon, and vodka.
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I think the headliner of their products is the Breaker Bourbon. Even to drink on its own, I liked Breaker. It was smooth and balanced with enough sweetness and complexity to keep you sipping. There are notes of chocolate along with honey and spices. The bourbon, which is aged for 5 years, recently won the gold medal for Best American Bourbon that's aged less than 7 years form World Whiskies Award!

Monday, March 24, 2014

Piedmontese Beef for Korean BBQ at Star King BBQ

There's a new star of Korean BBQ in Koreatown. Star King BBQ has actually been open for a while, but a recent change of ownership led to the kbbq joint being the only Korean restaurant and one of the few places in Los Angeles offering Piedmontese beef. The new owner Jackie Yoo is the daughter of a meat distributor, so she knows where to get the good stuff.

Not just the Piedmontese, but Star King is possibly also the only place in town serving the tomahawk rib eye of the Piedmontese. This is what put the restaurant on the heat map, and you have to admit, the presentation is rather impressive!

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All the bbq is cooked over charcoal grill, and you'll find plenty of banchans, from the typical to the more unusual.
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Instead of the potato salad, you'll find sweet potato salad along with pancakes.
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Friday, March 21, 2014

Freddy Smalls Bar and Kitchen (West Los Angeles, CA)

One of the early cocktail bars with a full food menu that opened in West LA was Freddy Smalls. Situated in a part of Pico Blvd I rarely visit, the bar was crowded despite being a weeknight.


I was pleasantly surprised by the food here! We started with some deviled eggs as appetizers. These are Buffalo Deviled Eggs with crisp chicken skin. point reyes blue cheese, hot sauce, and celery ($4)
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I've heard good things about their brussel sprouts and wasn't disappointed. The Fried Brussels Sprouts were served with smoked goat cheese and apple cider glaze ($8)
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Unlike some I've tried at other places, the brussels sprouts weren't too salty or overwhelmed with sauce. It was flavorful with the sweet glaze that's tempered by the creamy goat cheese. This is probably one of my favorite brussels sprouts dishes out there.

The cocktail menu here is small and though fairly conservative, you can still find some interesting drinks. I started with the Star-Crossed Lover, made with Smith & Cross Jamaican rum, kaffir lime. simple syrup ($10)
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Monday, March 17, 2014

Revisiting M.B. Post With New Cocktail Menu

M.B. Post recently launched new cocktails and I took the opportunity to revisit the place, not just for drinks but some dinner also! It's been a while since I've been there and the place was better than I remembered.

beetOn their cocktail menu they include the original cocktail that inspired theirs. The new cocktails ($12.50 each) include drinks like Longshanks (Penicillin with Compass Box "Oak Cross", beet, honey, lemon, thyme). This was one of my favorites, I love the subtle beet flavor. While it might sound strange, it's a great and well balanced drink.

Given the season, there's also King Philip's Bounty (Mojito with Starr, blood orange, mint, lime, tarragon)
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Strong but deceptively sweet and refreshing.

I was glad I ordered the bacon cheddar biscuits. I had forgotten just how good these were, but I was reminded right away! So buttery and flaky, and that delicious fluffy maple butter on the side... these are a must order! We got to dinner pretty late after a long class (scuba lesson), so we gobbled these right up.

Bacon cheddar biscuits

MB Post's menu always features a handful of specials. That night, they had a Saffron risotto with blue crab, shrimp, sword squid, English peas, squid ink rice crackers ($19)
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The flavors of the seafood are sweet and delicate, wonderful with the saffron. The crispy crackers provided a nice contrast to the creamy risotto.

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Giveaway! $50 Gift Card to Firehouse Subs

Last week Narin reviewed the new Firehouse Subs location in San Diego for the blog, and this week I have a giveaway for you!


Firehouse Subs sent over a $50 gift card, which you can use at any of the Firehouse Subs locations. They're actually nationwide (you can see their locations here) so this giveaway is open to everyone, not just CA residents! It actually looks like East Coasters would have an easier time finding these hot subs around.
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To enter, follow instructions on the widget below. Giveaway ends on Sunday March 23.
a Rafflecopter giveaway

Friday, March 14, 2014

The Birthplace of Key Lime Pie? (Key West, Florida)

Happy Pi Day! In honor of this day, I'm sharing about my visit to Key Lime Pie Factory. This small shop in Key West, FL is said to be the birthplace of the key lime pie. But, a lot of other places also claim to be "the original" and Epicurious had a nice story about the history of key lime pie (and how key limes were wiped out by a hurricane and most of the local limes are now Persian limes ....)

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Dating back to ... 1856? Wow, that's a long time ago.
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Wednesday, March 12, 2014

A Breakfast Tour of Downtown LA's Grand Central Market

Grand Central Market in downtown Los Angeles is one of the most exciting food destinations lately, with tons of new vendors opening up shop. I was recently invited to a breakfast tour of some of these vendors, new and old. Since it's breakfast, we of course started with G&B Coffee.

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Not only do they have amazing coffee and cappuccino (with almond milk!), you can also get Donut Snob's amazing donuts here.
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Our next stop was Sticky Rice.
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What we had for breakfast was actually a snack that they will have in the afternoons, Kanom Krok. They have a special pan to make these delicious little coconut custard cakes.
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Monday, March 10, 2014

Amaya (La Jolla, CA)

It's been almost a year since Amaya opened their La Jolla location (the first is at The Grand Del Mar). 
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The fancy interior may seemed old school and stuffy, but the servers were very friendly and courteous, and the young female wine director walked us through a fun pairing throughout dinner.
Bread
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The menu is quite promising, with a nice variety of seafood (lobster pot pie!) and game meats. We started dinner with an amuse of lobster bisque.
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We ordered the half dozen chilled oysters, served with a carrot and ginger granita on top, which complemented the oysters very well. These were paired with an Alto Adige Chardonnay.
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She told us that Chablis and oysters is a textural, while this Chardonnay is similar to Chablis but crisp. It brings out notes of apples and oranges.

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Lunch at Wilson Creek Winery (and their Pig Mascot!), Temecula, CA

I'll just admit it straight up. I'm biased. I loved visiting Wilson Creek Winery in Temecula because ... they have Molly Merlot, their pig mascot!

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Isn't she adorable with her tutu, though? I don't care as much about taking photos with celebrities or chefs, but I made sure I got one with Molly.

Wilson Creek Winery is one of the larger ones in Temecula Valley.
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It's beautiful and well equipped for weddings, with a stage already built for special occasions and perhaps live music concerts.
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Thursday, March 6, 2014

10th Anniversary Celebration for Jean Georges' Spice Market (New York, NY)

Jean-Georges' Spice Market recently celebrated their 10th anniversary. It doesn't seem to have been that long since he opened this Southeast Asian spot in Meatpacking district! I sent over a couple of guest writers to cover 10th anniversary party, and you can read about their experience below:

by Michael Judice and Cathryn Hunt

When we received our invitation to a party at the Spice Market we were excited and grateful to attend. We were honored to do our duty in tasting every dish offered, in service of the greater good. The neighborhood isn’t our usual vibe or budget, but we jumped at the chance to taste some good food and decided to approach it with open minds, sharpened senses, and willing palates.

Upon entering the space we were taken aback by the low lighting, and décor that could easily be oversimplified as rustic. Indirectly lit copper pendants accented the rough-hewn exposed wood beams. This gave the space an overall glow of firelight. This feeling of warmth also seemed to radiate from the choice of colors used in the décor.

Spice Market

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

MeroToro: Bringing Baja to Mexico City

Why would one eat Baja seafood in Mexico City? Why, because the chef is Jair Tellez, of course! His outpost in the Condesa neighborhood, MeroToro, has brought Jair Tellez to the top of the culinary scene in Mexico City, and I got to experience it first hand when I tagged along to Mexico City with Street Gourmet LA.

I was extra lucky because we had so many sea urchin dishes that night! We started with this beautiful dish of Baja uni and barnacles with uni consommé, radish, and cherry tomatoes

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Served with a light tostada as a vehicle.
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Even though Baja sea urchin is only on the second tier in quality, Chef Tellez wanted to promote domestic ingredients and prepares it such that it melds the flavors of Baja seafood beautifully.

Next: more Baja sea urchin w cucumber
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Sunday, March 2, 2014

Red Medicine Revamps Formosa Cafe's Food Menu (Hollywood)

Formosa Cafe in Hollywood stores a long history of old Hollywood glamour. It was opened in 1925 and now preserved as a historical landmark. To keep Angelenos interested, though, they decided it was time to spice up the food menu and got the Red Medicine team to move in and take over the menu, resulting in Red Med at Formosa Cafe.

While Jordan Kahn is revamping Red Medicine itself to move away from Vietnamese dishes, the rest of the team brings old favorites and more of the Asian flavors to Formosa. Find dishes like Oyster mushrooms, oyster sauce, haricot vert (green beans), espelette ($12)

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You can't see the oyster mushrooms buried underneath, but trust when I say that the mushrooms with the crunchy bits are one of our favorite dishes here.

Shanghai rice cakes, bacon x.o., shishito, Thai basil ($15)
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While $15 seems a little expensive, it was so good we couldn't stop eating it! That bacon x.o. sauce was pretty amazing with the chewy rice cakes. Formosa Cafe's kitchen is also open until 2 am so I think when I am tipsy I would happily pay $15 for this ...

Saturday, March 1, 2014

Las Vegas, Nevada

Where to Eat
Lotus of Siam

Where to Drink
5 best cocktail bars in Vegas

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