Saturday, January 31, 2015

Single Origin Hot Chocolates and Desserts at LA Burdick (Cambridge, MA)

Even though I'm not sure who decides on these national food holidays, since it's National Hot Chocolate Day, I thought I'd write about Boston's most popular hot chocolate spot, LA Burdick near Harvard Square in Cambridge.

LA Burdick

Other than their house signature hot dark chocolate, I also like LA Burdick because they serve single source/ single origin hot chocolates! When I went they had two different ones from Grenada and Ecuador.
LA Burdick

I tried the Ecuador one, described to have "notes of black tea, cinnamon and earthy flavors ... robust ... with a very long finish". It was quite intense but I loved it, although I still had a hard time deciding if I liked the signature one better.

Friday, January 30, 2015

Learn Mixology Master Method, Skip Fake Bartending Courses

So, I'll admit straight off the bat, I've attended one of those bartending courses. I didn't know much back then. The course taught me dozens of old recipes that I had to memorize and how to free pour. They used colored water, though, and I never got to taste what I "made". In the end I knew all kinds of party drinks and shooter recipes, just not what they tasted like.

Two of the top bartenders in LA, Joseph Brooke and Martin Cole, set out to change all that and create a school that would teach to-be bartenders how to make real drinks and train you the basics correctly (including developing your palate), because it's harder to beat out bad habits once you've picked them up.

Mixology Master

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Florida's Eco Burger Chain BurgerFi Now Open in West Roxbury (MA)

There's been a trend for new chain restaurants to be more sustainable and eco-friendly, and BurgerFi out of Florida is one of them. To start with, all their burgers use all natural Angus beef. Not only that, they use tables made of recycled wood, and chairs made of recycled Coke bottles. Their fans supposedly use 66% less electricity than normal.

Their most popular burger is the Breakfast All Day.

The patty is sandwiched between hash brown and a sunny side up egg, then topped with bacon. On the bottom there's caramelized onion.
Other than burgers, they're also known for serving frozen custards - concretes in particular, the frozen custard so thick it's supposed to stay in the cup if you turn it upside down, hence the name "conrete". No, I didn't try flipping it upside down ...

In the one I tried, the vanilla frozen custard is layered with red velvet cake. Other flavors include key lime pie and one with peanut butter, chocolate, and brownie all in one.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Butchers and Barbers (Hollywood)

Butchers and Barbers in Hollywood is Houston brothers' first venture into the restaurant business. Their bars are known for their themes and secret entrances, but this restaurant has a more classic bistro feel.

Butchers and Barbers
The kitchen is headed by Chef Luke Reyes (formerly of The Corner Door and Lucky Duck). The menu is divided into snacks, "Garden", "Sea", and "Land". You can expect a great Charcuterie board ($18): pate, rillettes, cured meats, house-made pickles, stone fruit jam
Butchers and Barbers
I had forgotten how much I like chicken liver mousse until this exceptional version here, and I couldn't stop eating it with the toasted bread. They also had housemade ricotta that was delicious.

Naturally, since this is a Houston bros' establishment, the cocktails are as good as expected. I tried the Greta Garbo ($12): hazelnut-infused Belle Mead bourbon, benedictine, honey, angostura bitters, citrus oils
Butchers and Barbers 

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Salt Lake City and Surrounding Area (Utah)

Salt Lake City

Park City
High West Distillery & Saloon

Eating and Drinking at High West Distillery & Saloon (Park City, Utah)

If you're in or going to Park City in Utah for the Sundance festival or to go skiing, make sure to visit the High West Distillery & Saloon. It's perhaps the only ski-in ski-out distillery, but it's also a great saloon serving nice cocktails and food.

High West
You can go to the saloon to try one of the rare High West whiskies you might not find in your own city. I tried the Valley Tan and Son of Bourye (unfortunately, they no longer make or sell the Bourye).
High West

The menu is what they call "high country" food with some local game meats but you'd also find a plate of locally cured meats with housemade mustard
High West

For my first drink I ordered the Hootspa Special with Double Rye! (that's one of the High West whiskies), Rendezvous Rye, Amontillado sherry, Masala chai, lemon juice, and egg ($11)
High west

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Late Night Eats in Surabaya, Indonesia: Rawon Setan

Surabaya is one of the best food cities in Indonesia, if I do say so myself. One of their more popular joints is Rawon Setan, which was known for serving rawon late into the night. Or morning, technically.

Rawon is a beef soup made with these black nuts called keluak. Keluak is poisonous but you can remove the toxicity by fermenting them. That's the main ingredient but the soup also contains various other spices in beef stock. Here, the soup with generous cubes of beef is served with rice and beansprouts.

Rawon Setan

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Negroni Slushies and Amish Chicken at Parson's Chicken and Fish (Chicago, IL)

I almost missed my flight out of Chicago. I almost missed it because I was busy eating fried chicken and drinking slushies at Parson's. Parson's Chicken and Fish was opened by the team at Longman and Eagle, which you may remember was one of my favorites from previous visits. I'd been hearing about their negroni slushies and decided to stop by on my way to the airport. The place is a fun, colorful, diner.
They actually had negroni and dark & stormy slushies, so we got both! They're not just frozen blended to order but actually comes from two slushie machines which you can see sitting on the bar. The two drinks cater to different palates, with the sweeter and zingy Dark and Stormy versus the slightly more bitter Campari taste from the Negroni. Since it's the Longman and Eagle team who opened this restaurant, Conbon asked for her favorite Old Fashioned from L&E and they were able to make it.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Bostonia Public House (Boston, MA)

Bostonia Public House, located in the historic Board of Trade building, was named one of the best new restaurants in Boston last year.

The menu consists of mostly New England fare but you can start with some snacks like Tater tot poutine ($8)

These were fun, although I wish they'd put cheese curds like a real poutine!

Berbere spiced pork ribs, almond quinoa ($14)
Nicely spiced, fall-off-the-bone tender. Our favorite of the appetizers.

Monday, January 19, 2015

Preview: Dine LA Menu at Loteria Grill

by: guest blogger @iam_robot

Ever since Jimmy Shaw opened the first Loteria Grill in 2002, it immediately became one of the most sought after fine Mexican eateries. Not only the food packs bold flavors and fresh ingredients, Shaw’s cooking technique makes you feel as if you were bequeathed with home-cooked feasts. Incorporating long-cooked stews with contrasting flavors of herb or chilies, Shaw is never afraid to offer specialties we rarely see. While the Lengua De Res En Salsa Verde – Braised Beef Tongue in Tomatillo Sauce – has a certain luscious beefiness, the Pollo En Pipian Rojo – Chicken Stewed in spicy pumpkin seed and Chile Guajillo Sauce – is a cohesive dish with interchanging flavors of savory and heat. Or if you’re a thrill seeker, try their Cochinita Pibil – citrus marinated pork slowly roasted in banana leaf- and wash it down with their vast display of Margarita selections.

Last Thursday I had the chance to taste of some of their current Dine LA offerings. Dinner starts out light with offerings such as Crema de Chicarron (Cream of Pork Rind Soup) or Ensalada de Flor de Jamaica (Spinach salad with Grapefruit and highly addictive Hibiscus Vinaigrettte).  But if you’re like me and have a bottomless hunger, you should start with a heady dish like Tostaditas de Atun 2 ways – 2 Mini Tostadas of Tuna Ceviche with Salsa Negra and Pepper Salsa.

Crema de Chicarron

Ensalada de Flor de Jamaica

Tostaditas de Atun 2 ways

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Trio Menu at Next Restaurant (Chicago)

I've been visiting one Grant Achatz restaurant/bar per visit to Chicago, starting with Alinea, then The Aviary, The Office, and now, finally, Next. As you may know, the menu at Next changes every few months, and we're not just talking seasonal changes but complete, absolute shift to distinct themes. There had been Modern Chinese, Bocuse d'Or, Chicago Steak, and other themes. This time, since it is the 10th anniversary of Alinea, the theme is Trio. This is the restaurant in Evanston that Grant Achatz was working at when he met and subsequently partnered with Nick Kokonas to open Alinea. The menu thus evokes techniques and dishes that he served 10 years ago at Trio.

Our meal started with Osetra,caviar avocado, sugar, lime
This goes back to when they started playing with "neutral flavors" with the hardened sugar chip that adds texture to the dish.

Rock shrimp, cranberry, Meyer lemon, vanilla bean
A simple fried shrimp skewered with a stick of vanilla bean to enhance the aromatic experience.

When we were first seated, we were given a glass of rose. Now, they bring a bottle of housemade bitters that we can add to the rose based on our own taste preferences.

Crab, coconut, ten bridging garnishes

Friday, January 16, 2015

New Menu at Baleen Kitchen (Redondo Beach, CA)

With the coming of winter, it's time for new menus. Such is the case with Baleen Kitchen at the Portofino Hotel in Redondo Beach. Here's what you can look forward to on the new menu:

You can start with a light grain salad like the Baleen Garden (baby beets, farro, tomato, quinoa, avocado, pea shoots, almonds, lime vinaigrette)


Or for a more substantial salad, there's the Dungeness and soft shell crab salad with avocado, haricot vert, and lollo rossa
Lollo rossa is a particular type of lettuce and it works nicely with the sweet dungeness crab hidden at the bottom. 

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Royal Cambodian Cuisine at The Elephant Walk (Cambridge, MA)

One of the restaurants I kept hearing about before moving to Boston was the high end Cambodian restaurant, Elephant Walk. It serves "royal" Cambodian cuisine along with French (which was traditionally served to the Cambodian royalties).

I started dinner with a strong appetizer, the Nataing ($8.50): Ground pork simmered in coconut milk with sliced garlic, peanuts and chili pods; served with crispy rice


Rouleaux ($7.50): Cambodian spring rolls filled with pork, peanut, noodles, carrot and onion; served with greens and herbs for wrapping and tuk trey for dipping.
Elephant Walk
They were good spring rolls but on the smaller side and seems mighty expensive for $7.50 for two small pieces.

The entree I loved most is the Amok Royal ($19.50): A cambodian signature dish - a spicy, steamed, custard-like preparation of fresh crab, shellfish and asian grouper with coconut milk khmer seasonings; garnished with cilantro and red bell pepper
amok royal 

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Sing for Free Brunch at Papagayo Karaoke Brunch in Charlestown

Bostonians: Want free food? Would you sing for free food?
Papagayo Mexican Restaurant is launching a Karaoke Brunch at their Charlestown location and for the month of January, all brunch entrees are 50% off! On top of that, if you call and make reservation and sign up to sing, you'll get brunch FREE!

I'm no public performer, but I'd sure do it for free food! Find the information and the number to sign up below:

Papagayo Mexican
1 Chelsea St, Charlestown, MA
(617) 242-7400

Monday, January 12, 2015

L'Amande Bakery: A Little Parisian Haven in Beverly Hills

L'Amande On Santa Monica Blvd in Beverly Hills is a charming bakery called L'Amande. What looks like a normal storefront from the outside leads into a bright and lovely space. High ceiling, spacious, charming decor.

Now, the baked goods themselves. I think this bakery makes one of the baguettes in town. They make them throughout the day so you can always get one still fresh and warm from the oven!

I couldn't stop eating these baguettes. I got one fresh from the oven and it was perfect. The only baguette that might be better in town is the one Chef Ludo uses at Petit Trois, but you can't really buy those retail. As far as baguettes that you can just go and buy whenever you want, these may be some of the best in town.

As far as other baked goods go, one of their signature items is the Raspberry cream cheese croissant


Friday, January 9, 2015

Paninoteca is a Lunch Game Changer in Beverly Hills

Scarpetta at the Montage Hotel in Beverly Hills has often been named as having the best bread basket in the city. They make all the breads in house. Now, imagine if they opened a sandwich shop ... Oh, wait, they did. Paninoteca is now open right next door to Scarpetta (using the same kitchen space) for weekday lunches, and it is the game changer. Meet the best sandwiches and the best lunch deal in Beverly Hills.

There's no official seating at Paninoteca, but the courtyard at The Montage is the perfect setting for an al fresco lunch. Your order will come in a brown bag so you can head to the courtyard and enjoy LA's almost-always-perfect weather.

I tried three sandwiches and my surprise favorite was the Chicken "Parmigiano": Chicken cutlet, burrata, smoked tomatoes ($11)

Their bread, of course, is oustanding. On top of that they also use juicy dark meat, and paired with the perfectly creamy burrata and the flavors of a spread of smoked tomatoes, I couldn't believe how much I loved this chicken sandwich. Filling and flavorful with tender meat, it's possible the best sandwich I had last year.

Another best seller is the Porchetta (spiced pork belly, broccoli rabe pesto, fried hen egg, $11)

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Xi'An Hand Pulled Noodles at Gene's Chinese Flatbread Cafe (Boston, MA)

I've tried a few Chinese restaurants in the Boston area, and I wasn't really wowed by any of them. They're fine and would satisfy cravings, but there wasn't really many shops that specialize in any particular thing. But I kept reading about Gene's Chinese Flatbread Cafe, and I thought, this would be it. Gene's Chinese Flatbread Cafe, despite the name, really specializes in Xi'An style hand pulled noodles, also known as biang biang noodles.
Gene's Flatbread
The owner, Gene Wu, hand pulls the noodles every morning. There are a variety of noodle dishes you can try with the hand pulled noodles, but the crowd favorite seems to be the #9, served with cumin lamb. You'd also want to get a side of the cumin lamb skewer for $1.50 each.

The #9 dish consists of a base of chili oil, then hand pulled noodles, thin slices of cumin-seasoned lamb and topped with fresh bean sprouts, carrots, and cilantro.

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Udon and Uni at Marugame Monzo (Downtown LA)

When Marugame Monzo opened in Little Tokyo, I was excited for two things. First, the handmade udon means I don't have to drive to Torrance for good udon! Second, two words: uni udon.

Yep, one of the signature items is the Sea Urchin (Uni) Cream udon ($15.95)

Marugame Monzo
Perfectly chewy udon, creamy sauce, uni. I mean, what's not to like? During my first visit with a couple of friends, we barely tried anything else because we all wanted to order this.

The glass windows of the kitchen let you see the udon making in action.
Trust me, having freshly made noodles of any kind (soba, pasta, and yes, udon) makes a huge difference!

Sunday, January 4, 2015

Let's Talk About Sustainable Seafood

Last year I attended a Sustainable Seafood panel in LA presented by The Los Angeles Food Policy Council & Sustainable Seafood LA, and I learned a lot about seafood consumption in the US and the world.

Here are some facts about seafood you may not know:
  1. America is the 2nd largest consumer of seafood in the world (the first is China).
  2. We take half a billion pounds of seafood out of ocean each day.
  3. 90% of US seafood is imported.
  4. Shrimp is the #1 consumed seafood in US. Most of these are imported from Thailand. The 2nd most consumed is tuna. Pacific blue fin tuna, as you may already know, is depleted. But you can still eat skipjack tuna (which makes up 60% of canned tuna these days), albacore, and yellowfin.
  5. 50% of the world's seafood is from aquaculture (mostly from China).
  6. 70% of the fish in US is consumed in restaurants. That means chefs play a very important part in seafood sustainability!
  7. 2% of all research and development dollars go to USDA. Only 0.4% of that goes to aquaculture research.

Friday, January 2, 2015

Rino's Place, Old School Italian Gem in East Boston

Food-wise, it seems that people travel to East Boston for two reasons: Santarpio's and Rino's Place. They've both been institutions in what is called Eastie (Rino's Place has been around for about 25 years). The wait at Rino's Place can get so long that they opened a bar/cafe across the street called Prima E Dopo (which means Before and After) that they suggest people go while waiting. I purposefully came at an odd hour, around 3:30pm to avoid both the lunch and dinner crowds. I got seated immediately but the restaurant was still more than half full.

Layered eggplant with mozzarella and creamy pesto sauce. You can order half or a full order. The half is already plenty and is only $6.

Eggplant parmigiana is one of my favorite comfort food and I knew I was going to like this variation since I love pesto. I was right and I had to stop myself from devouring the entire thing since I still had another dish coming.

I came for this: the housemade ravioli filled with ricotta cheese. This dish is nominated for Best Pasta for the upcoming Chowzter North American awards. (A similar dish but stuffed with both lobster and ricotta has been featured on Food Network).
Rino's Place

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