Thursday, October 30, 2014

Backyard Farms Tomato Lunch at Nebo (Boston, MA)

I recently had the opportunity to try out Nebo at a lunch with Backyard Farms. Backyard Farms is a tomato farm in Central Maine. Their 42 acres grow 4 tomato varieties that supple Whole Foods and some restaurants in the area. It's one of the few farms in New England that grow year round (most are just in winter - not something I thought about much while in California) and they recently won Best Products Supplier in North Atlantic Region from Whole Foods.

They're launching a new varietal called Somerset Pink that has been in the making for 2 years. It's tough to grow tomatoes! The somerset pink is like a beefsteak tomato so the texture is robust for salads and sandwiches, but it has a higher sugar content than most other beefsteak tomatoes.

Our lunch at Nebo started with a plate of Backyard Farms Somerset Pink tomato with burrata, saba, EVOO

So, saba is the must that results from the first pressing of wine grapes, that is then cooked and concentrated to a syrupy consistency. It has a strong, balsamic-vinegar like flavor that goes really nicely with the fresh tomatoes and creamy burrata.

The restaurant is started by 2 Italian sisters who hail from Boston's North End. Before opening the restaurant, they were running a hair salon. But one day, one of them decided she wants to open a restaurant serving their mother's style of cooking. They have some great stories about the North End to tell!
Did you know that North End is still separated into regions of Italy? The people living on Endicott and Prince Sts are from Naples while those on Waterfront are Sicilian! Italians are known to be very loyal and they still buy from same purveyors in North End that their grandmother used. That also means they have great relationships and can call them in the middle of the night should emergency arise.

Another example is the story of this bread.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Old Town Pasadena Drinking at PUNCH

While 1886 Bar is one of my favorite bars in the LA area, there wasn't many other options for cocktails in Pasadena. That is, until recently. Now, you can get pretty good drinks at Trattoria Neapolis, though they've gone through some staff changes lately. One of the latest entrants is PUNCH Bar (it's been a while now since they've opened), headed by Robin Chopra and Darwin Manahan, who are also manning the bar at Corazon Y Miel.

The bar is a bit hard to find. It's on top of PICNIK, and I think you're supposed to go up the stairs from the parking lot around the back, but I got lost and they let me upstairs from inside PICNIK.

Sunday, October 26, 2014

November 10: Wine and Food of Spain at The Bazaar ( + Ticket Giveaway!)

On Monday, November 10, head on over to The Bazaar at the SLS Hotel in Beverly Hills for a taste of Spain's best wines and food. The event is called Spain's Great Match and will feature more than 200 Spanish wines. The wines will be accompanied by tapas from The Bazaar. We're talking 200+ wines with Chef Jose Andres' lauded food! Last year's bites include a taste of their famed molecular gastronomy techniques

There will also be a Cava Bubble Lounge. I don't know about you, but I love my bubbles.

Sounds good? Even better, at the end of this post you can enter a giveaway for 2 FREE TICKETS to this event!

Friday, October 24, 2014

Cooking Made Easy with Plated

Sure, I don't cook much, but I'm partially a biologist and I can follow protocols ... I mean, recipes ... That's why I use services like Plated when I'm not going out. With Plated, they send you exact ingredients and recipes, expecting you to only have olive oil, salt, and pepper in your kitchen. Pretty much what I have!

Plated isn't dirt cheap - each meal costs $12 with subscription or $15 a la carte. I have a subscription and you can just skip the weeks you don't want a delivery (which is 80% of the time for me). If you order more than $50, then delivery is free. But given the price, I have to say the food I've made using Plated have tasted quite good, if I do say so myself! They recently added dessert options, apparently.

Roast chicken with couscous and yogurt

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Lunch at Del Frisco's Grille in Burlington, MA

I first heard of Del Frisco's Grille from their Santa Monica location, but didn't have the chance to check it out. Apparently it's a national chain and there's a location in Burlington, MA.

While the more formal Del Frisco had been around for longer, the company has refocused their efforts on the more casual Del Frisco's Grille. All the new locations they are opening will be the Grille, and each one will have a different decor. The Burlington location has a red-themed decor.

We started lunch with the Ahi tuna tacos, guacamole
Del Frisco's Grille
Coming from LA, this dish is nothing new but still good with fresh tuna and flavorful guacamole.

Next we had a series of flatbreads, starting with the Roasted tomato and mozzarella flatbread
I was pleasantly surprised with this pizza. The flavors were better than I had expected, especially with the roasted tomatoes.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Get Free Airport Parking and Make Money with FlightCar

Have you heard of FlightCar? FlightCar is a way to park your car at the airport for free and make some side money, too. How? Well, they rent out your car to travelers. I just tried parking it for the first time and got my first check in the mail, on top getting 4 days of free airport parking!

Here's how it works:

For the Parker
When your car is rented via FlightCar, it is fully insured. You get $0.10 per mile driven for the first 100 miles per day and $0.40/mile over that. If the renter doesn't fill up the gas tank, you'll also get reimbursed for that. You just need to list your car ahead of time and tell them when you will drop it off and pick it up. You'll need to have the registration in the car.

TIP: Come a bit early. When you drop it off, they're supposed to have a black car to take you to the airport, but when I was there the car was busy picking someone up at the airport. Later, they told me they were supposed to call an Uber if this happens. As an apology they sent me a $20 check. I didn't miss my flight so it's all good, but just keep in mind you might want to get there earlier. You're getting free parking and potentially making money, so I think it's worth it.

For the Renter
So I've looked at the rental prices for FlightCar as well. Depending on the timing, yes, sometimes you can get really cheap rentals at these major airports. But if you're coming last minute and the rental prices have gone way up, then FlightCar has always been the cheapest option.
Try it with $20 off your first rental (or get it as a payout bonus when you list your car!) using this link:

Flightcar is currently available in Boston Logan, SFO, LAX, and Seattle Tacoma Airport.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Oktoberfest at Pomona Fairplex

by: guest blogger @iam_robot

As Oktoberfest beckons, guys and gals rock their lederhosen or dirndl and beeline to Pomona for some brats, beers, and chicken dance. There we will see a traditional Oompah Band playing a selection of foot stomping, thigh slapping German folk tunes to give the festivity a true Hofbrauhaus (Munich historical beer hall) ambiance. Not your cup of tea? Fret not! There are tons of tribute bands playing the tunes of Led Zeppelin, Queen, Black Eyed Peas, and Journey (or Foreigner….aren’t they the same band?).
Inside the pavilion is the buffet featuring traditional German fare:

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Famed Hollywood Taqueria Calle Tacos To Offer Catering Service

By: guest blogger @iam_robot

In a time when quick-service and casual dining chains are offering catering service to generate additional revenues, Calle Tacos, Hollywood popular taqueria owned by street-food extraordinaire Dorian and Javier Villasenor, are doing exactly just that. This Hollywood Blvd permanently parked lonchero (food truck) strive to bring your favorite Mexican fare, utilizing decades-old family recipe and fresh ingredients, to your family events and corporate meetings.
Calle Tacos
For its catering service, not only common Mexican food (burritos, nachos, tortas, fajitas and tacos) will be served, there’ll be less known items like Shrimp Ceviche, Chicken Mole Poblano and Kobe Beef Sliders. Washed those down with their homemade Watermelon or Pineapple agua fresca, suddenly those corporate events feel a wee bit memorable.  And yes, any of the dishes can be customized with a selection of protein, toppings or sauces to suit your taste. Based on my experience, their al pastor, carnitas and carne asada are excellent but their Chipotle Fish Tacos is probably one of the most delicious tacos in LA. Fish was skillfully fried to golden brown perfection while the chipotle mayo adds tang and cooling underneath.

So here’s how the catering menu looks like:
Shrimp Ceviche – shrimp seasoned in citrus with pico de gallo and red onion.
The dish came looking more like a shrimp cocktail but the taste combo were there. The citrus veered the dish towards sour but the inherent sweetness of the pico de gallo balanced out the equation. I like how the red onion didn’t lose the tanginess or crunch despite being soaked in citrus or pico de gallo for a long time. My slight criticism about this dish is that I wished the shrimp was bigger and packed a tad more crunch.

Chicken Mole Poblano – Chicken mixed in a sweet mole made with chiles, chocolate and warm spices

Thursday, October 16, 2014

James Hook Lobster (Boston, MA)

There are plenty of lobster to be had in Boston, but where to have one affordably? Well, the cheapest would be the Chinese restaurants, but if you want them traditional style, then James Hook is one of the best values in town.

I took my aunt and cousins there and ordered whole steamed lobsters (tip: there is a small parking lot where you can park for free!)


A whole steamed 1.5 lb lobster went for $20 here when I came (on July 4). Actually, you pay $22 when you order but they will refund you $2 in cash when you return the crackers (funny story: my aunt misunderstood and tried to return the oyster crackers that came with our chowder!).

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

New Chef Shines at Ray's and Stark Bar (Mid City, Los Angeles, CA)

By: guest blogger @btsunoda

It’s been my experience that many museums don’t plan for the food and drink interests of their patrons. While visitors may be wowed by the fine art and sculptures, the food offered doesn’t quite match the experience. I recently visited Ray’s and Stark bar and I’m happy to say that I had a very different experience. Ray’s and Stark Bar is located at the LA County Museum of Art or LACMA.

They opened in 2011 and feature a Mediterranean-inspired menu includes dishes locally obtained ingredients and offerings from their wood-burning oven. They feature seasonal cocktails, a California-centric wine list, and artisan beers and spirits. While the original chef, Kris Morningstar, former sous chef Viet Pham has taken over and keeping the restaurant going strong. DSCF3940
 The restaurant is actually situated outdoors from LACMA, next to the BP Grand Entrance to the museum. It is well protected by the elements, covered to shield diners from direct sunlight and a glass partition to isolate noise from busy Wilshire boulevard. Eames-style chairs gave the interior a retro-styled look.
DSCF3953 Executive chef Viet Pham is a graduate of the California School of Culinary Arts in Pasadena. His mother helped him to become interested in cooking at an early age. Pham became passionate about the farm to table philosophy when he met Philip Tessier from Bouchon. He has worked at Ray’s and Stark Bar as their sous chef since they opened in 2011 and was promoted to executive chef in the spring of 2014.

Collaboration and teamwork are essential ingredients which make Ray’s and Stark and Bar successful. Viet Pham and “Dragon”, the forager, team up to decide what ultimately gets placed on the menu. Pham credited much of the success of the menu to Dragon because of the knack he has for finding the best fruits and vegetables.

The brainchild of Ray’s and Stark Bar’s water menu is Martin Riese, general manager and certified water sommelier. Flipping through the book, it read much like a wine list, only for water. The water menu included each water’s total dissolved solids, sodium, magnesium and calcium. Because water includes local minerals, it varies greatly, much like wine. Read more about the water menu.

First out of the kitchen was their housemade charcuterie which included duck rillette and truffle chicken liver.
I liberally spread the duck rillette and the truffle chicken liver over the toasted baguette slices and enjoyed both immensely.

Monday, October 13, 2014

Architectural Tour of Downtown Los Angeles with LA Conservancy

Did you know that downtown Los Angeles actually has some cool architecture and historic buildings? And did you know that you can take a tour with LA Conservancy to see them?


I took this tour with a group of bloggers one Sunday morning. We had a very enthusiastic tour guide (who is obviously a Hapa as you can see from his t shirt).

Before we started walking he explained the two main architectural styles we will see. One is the Beaux Artes style which we could see with the Millennium Biltmore hotel nearby. The beaux artes style buildings feature three horizontal layers and typically pay tribute to the Greco Roman empire through their accents and decorations.
DTLA architecture 
Not the Biltmore, but a typical beaux artes style nonetheless.

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Gourmet Dumpling House (Boston, MA)

When relatives come to visit, I inevitably end up at a Chinese restaurant. At least once. It happened twice this time, and one of the two was at Boston's popular Chinatown joint, Gourmet Dumpling House.

This place was named as having the best XLB aka xiao long bao aka juicy dumplings in Boston.
The dumplings were pretty good. They're on the bigger side and the skin is thicker and not as delicate as Din Tai Fung, but the inside is juicy. It's more of a rustic style, you can say.

During lobster season, you'll also find lobsters for pretty cheap here.

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Maine Lobster Roll #2: Bite Into Maine (Cape Elizabeth, ME)

When I was looking for lobster rolls near Portland, I had bypassed Bite Into Maine food truck because I thought it'd be harder to find. Little did I know I would come across it anyway, and so might most of you. It said that the truck parks at Fort Williams Park. I didn't know where or what that was, but apparently it's the park where Portland's most famous landmark resides: the Portland Head Light. You would've come across a photo of the lighthouse while reading about Maine.

Most of you will visit this lighthouse, and when you do, be sure to try Bite Into Maine. So far (and I know I have many left to go, but still), it is my favorite lobster roll in Maine!

Maine Restaurant Reviews


Bite Into Maine (Cape Elizabeth)

Red's Eats

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Omakase at Q Sushi (Downtown Los Angeles)

One of the latest high end sushi restaurants to open in Los Angeles is Q Sushi in downtown. It's a quiet dining experience: he interior is stark, but certainly well thought out and elegant. The man behind the operation is Chef Hiroyuki Naruke who ran a small sushi bar in Tokyo but moved to Los Angeles after the tsunami in 2011.

When you arrive, the only menu you'll be given is the drink menu of wines and sake. Your dinner will be the chef's choice omakase.
Q has been called the most traditional, "real edomae" sushi in LA, which focuses on the flavors of the fish rather than the rice or condiments (says the J Gold). I suppose it's true that LA has had a fascination with sushi rice since the days of the Sushi Nazi.

Waiting for my perpetually late LA friend, my sushi chef (not Naruke) entertains me by showing me their wasabi from Shizuoka. Just like the restaurant, chef Naruke is a quiet man and he oversees everything even when he's not making the sushi.
Finally my friend arrives and our meal starts with a light, bright sashimi of Fluke
 Followed by a fattier Baja California Swordfish with caramelized onion dressing and soy sauce
The touch of the dressing and sauces here are delicate, not a drizzle more that might overpower the fish.

Next: Japanese red snapper in homemade black sesame paste, garnished with gold flake
The first time I've had sashimi with black sesame, and I certainly enjoyed the unusual combination.

Monday, October 6, 2014

Chocolate and Wine Pairing at Chocolate Therapy (Framingham, MA)

I recently joined a group of bloggers at Chocolate Therapy in Framingham. Chocolate Therapy is a husband and wife-owned specialty handmade chocolate shop just outside of Boston. Just like the name suggest, Chocolate Therapy tries to add therapeutic ingredients in the chocolate, like lavender, bay leaf, ginger, etc.

They use primarily Belgian chocolate and make a lot of European style dark chocolates with no additive. They also do customized chocolate orders. Perhaps you want to outdo this giant chocolate goat they made for a goat dairy farm?

Anyway, I was there for a chocolate and wine pairing event. Before the wine pairing, the husband walked us through the chocolate making process. Cocoa pods (pictured below, bigger than you'd imagine!) are fermented, then the beans are squeezed so that the cocoa butter is squeezed out. The rest is ground and eventually made into what is called chocolate liquor.
The main differences between chocolate types is the ratio between the two. Swiss chocolate is creamier and has more cocoa butter compared to chocolate liquor. Belgian chocolate has a little less cocoa butter. It takes the pods from 2 cocoa trees to make 1 pound of chocolate! No wonder it's expensive. 

Saturday, October 4, 2014

Opening Alert: Mac-o-licious in Valley Village

by: guest blogger @iam_robot

The wait is over! Mac-n-cheese extraordinaire Kelly Chapman is finally doling out cheesy, gooey pans of gourmet macaroni and cheese from her humble little store in Valley Village. Riding the success of recent television appearance on CNBC’s Restaurant Start Up, Kelly is one of the very few food truck entrepreneurs who are able to turn profits of the food truck into a brick and mortar establishment. As a fellow entrepreneur, I admire her dedication.

The Trinity (Left to Right): Original Southern Mac, American Mac with Asparagus & Bacon, Frous Frous Crab Mac
While I love Kelly’s traditional mac-n-cheese, I am amazed how much customization can go into the bowl. In a way, Kelly’s Mac and Cheese offering is genre bending – inspired by culture, tradition, grandma recipe, and boundless imagination. To begin, you can have her 5 cheese Mac, which is topped with Asiago, Fontina, Gruyere, Parmesan and Cheddar. Then you can add on premium ingredients like black truffle, hot dog, or applewood-smoked bacon. Or if you’re a seafood lover, definitely try their new menu called as the Frous Frous, filled generously with blue crab claw or lobster meat. I had mine customized with Middle Eastern 7 spice and tons of Ghost Pepper. I also thought the American Mac was a firework of taste and sensation – crispy top cheese adorned with salty bits of bacon and crunchy asparagus.

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Maine Lobster Roll #1: Eventide Oyster Co. (Portland, ME)

A lobster roll tour of Maine is never ending. There are so many famous spots to hit up. I've made two trips to Maine and I've only hit a few of them!

My first stop in Maine was Eventide Oyster Co. in Portland, Maine. The lobster roll at Eventide is non-traditional. You can choose between Hollandaise, housemade mayo, or brown butter, but the bun they use is similar to a Chinese bao.
The lobster was fresh and the house mayo excellent, to be sure, what I didn't quite dig the soft Chinese-bun like roll with the lobster meat. I preferred the contrast of a toasted bun with my lobster.

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