Showing posts with label susan feniger. Show all posts
Showing posts with label susan feniger. Show all posts

Monday, August 29, 2011

Margarita Dinner at Border Grill

Mary Sue Milliken and Susan Feniger's Border Grill may very well be the restaurant that popularized Mexican food in LA back in the day. The Santa Monica restaurant is as popular as ever, but they're trying to keep things fresh by holding special events, such as the Margarita Dinner I recently attended.

The margarita dinner is a 5-course dinner prepared by Executive Chef Alex Moreno, each paired with a cocktail (well, the last pairing is nonalcoholic). The cocktails for this dinner were all made with Greenbar Collective spirits, a Los Angeles-based company that makes all organic spirits and bitters.

Hoja Santa ShrimpWe started our meal with a Grilled Oja Santa Shrimp and farmers market tomato mint tea.
We were supposed to alternate between bites of the crispy-fried shrimp and sips. The tomato mint "tea" was a little salty, though.

The dish was served with a Cucumber Mint Gin and Tonic, made with Tru organic gin, cucumber, and mint.
Cucumber Mint Gin Tonic
The herbal notes of the Tru gin was pretty strong.

Second course: Abalone and California Avocado Ceviche, lime cured, heirloom cherry tomatoes, persian cucumbers

Abalone Ceviche
This was an unusual ceviche. Not only do I rarely encounter an abalone ceviche, this was mixed in with an avocado sauce which lends the dish a nice creaminess instead of the strongly acidic lemon juice normally associated with ceviche.

Monday, May 30, 2011

Munching Around Santa Monica with Six Taste Tours

What better way to explore one area's food than a walking tour with an expert, tasting 4-5 places all in one go? Six Taste Tours, started by two USC alums, aim to do just that with their tours in various regions in LA, including Thai Town, Little Tokyo, Arcadia, and more. Each area's tour is guided by an expert in that particular area/cuisine. I was invited to go on the Santa Monica tour recently with their guide, Therese.

Godmother Sandwich
Godmother sandwich, with on ocean view.
I don't want to spoil all the fun of the tour for you, so I will just go through some of the things we ate and leave you with some surprises if you ever take the tour!

They said they consider the Santa Monica tour to be their international tour, and you will see why. Our first stop was Rockenwagner Bakery.
Photobucket
Rockenwagner Bakery
12835 W Washington Blvd
Los Angeles, CA 90066
(310) 578-8171
www.rockenwagner.com
Röckenwagner Bakery on Urbanspoon

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Our guide, Therese

PhotobucketOther than the baked goods, Therese told us that Rockenwagner has a great Austrian coffee. We tasted some and it was indeed pretty smooth.

Apparently Hans Rockenwagner and his pastry chef invented the pretzel croissant by dipping a croissant in caustic acid, so of course we had to try some! Because of the pretzel-like crust, the croissant doesn't leave as much of a buttery mess on your fingers. 
Pretzel Croissant

Monday, May 3, 2010

Feasting on California Avocado with the Too Hot Tamales

California Hass Avocados are now in season! Plus, it's almost Cinco de Mayo! Did you know that over 80 million pounds of avocados are consumed on Cinco de Mayo? That's a lot of guacamole!

The California Avocado Commission is working with the Too Hot Tamale chefs Mary Sue Milliken and Susan Feniger to create avocado-centric recipes and share them for Cinco de Mayo. They held a media lunch and cooking demo at Ciudad last week and I was lucky to be invited.

Many familiar faces were there, including Food Marathon, who convinced me it's never too early for a mojito ....
So in the email they had mentioned a cooking demo and a guacamole contest, i.e. a "guac-off".

Little did I know the "guac-off" mentioned was for us, not the chefs! They divided us into teams of two though we ended up in a team of three with Food Marathon and Active Foodie.
We were given a few minutes to look over the available ingredients and come up with a guacamole recipe.

Onions, corn, ... pomegranate, fish paste, banana, etc? OK ...

And of course, ripe California avocados!

Many of them made some pretty impressive guacamole. Ravenous Couple even decorated their "Saigon Samba" guac and tied it in nicely to their Vietnamese cooking blog. We didn't really have time to think about that :P
Well, ours ended up being halfway of what Active Foodie had envisioned. We weren't gung-ho enough to get some of the ingredients before the others used it all up. Oh well ...

We put bananas, oranges, tequila , and salt in ours.
Whatever, it tasted good ...

Lindsay from LAist and her team ended up winning the guacamole taste contest. Congratulations!

We did at least win the naming contest and won this Ciudad baseball cap! Mainly thanks for Food Marathon for his Ciudadocado Relish name idea.

Now that we got that out of the way, we let the experts, i.e. Chefs Mary Sue Milliken and Susan Feniger do the job. Eating at Border Grill or Ciudad is really nothing like eating the food created personally by these great chefs!

I was excited about our first course, crispy avocado tacos. These quinoa and sesame seed-crusted and deep fried avocado tacos were all the rage at Border Grill Truck.

Crispy California Avocado Tacos (recipe)
Pretty spectacular. The crunchiness of the quinoa and sesame seeds gave way to a deliciously creamy avocado. Add to that all the flavors from the refreshing corn relish. This taco is actually available exclusively at the Border Grill truck, and I highly recommend you get it.

California Avocado, Bacon, and Tomato Salad (recipe)
This simple salad has the delicious avocados as the main attraction, but the finishing touch is from the capers fried in bacon fat.

For our main entree, chefs Milliken and Feniger prepared chilaquiles for us. I haven't had chilaquiles since I last went to Tijuana and had it for breakfast (it's apparently a typical breakfast item)!
They told us that chilaquiles are an easy dish and a good way to finish up leftover salsa (and leftover tortillas too). Basically you simmer down tortillas in salsa until they soften up.

Chicken and California Avocado Skillet Chilaquiles (recipe)

Our first dessert is a simple garnishing of sliced fresh and ripe fruits:
California Avocado and Mango with Yogurt, Honey, and Lime (recipe)
With mangoes and avocados as good as these, you really don't need to do much! The yogurt and honey are such a good accent for the two fruits. Interestingly enough, because of the sprinkled Cayenne pepper, this ended up being the spiciest dish of the day!

To really finish off we had an Avocado Orange Licuado
Since they made this just for the event, the recipe isn't available on the CAC website, but it is basically avocados, orange juice, lemon, agave syrup, and milk blended. Oh and with a little bit of salt. The chefs said that they found salt to bring out that "avocado" flavor, so even though it may sound weird for a sweet drink, they put a bit of salt in it.

The drink is heavy yet refreshing due to the orange zest. It's a great drink for a warm summer day and a great way to end our meal!

I've heard Spring is the best season for avocados (though they're in season and available through Fall), and now that you have all these great avocado recipes on the CAC website, you can rush to get some ripe avocados and contribute to the 80 million pounds that will be eaten in 2 days.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Border Grill Truck: Curbside Ceviche

Food trucks and taco trucks especially are filling up the streets of LA ever since Kogi's success story. But the Border Grill truck rolled out bringing the food of Mary Sue Milliken and Susan Feniger that had already stood the test of customers in the Border Grill restaurants into the streets.

When I approached Ciudad for a donation for Bid and Eat for Haiti, they asked me if I had checked out the Border Grill truck. Why, no, I hadn't. I promised I would so per their invitation I stopped by for lunch en route to work. The truck was parked in front of LA Mart for the day.
I asked them to just give me whatever they want/think is best and ended up with a lot of food for one!

Peruvian ceviche ($5.00) - mahi mahi, lime, ginger, aji amarillo chile, pickled onion, corn, tortilla cone
Ceviche for $5? Nice. This was a good lightly spicy ceviche rendition with generous amount fresh and meaty mahi mahi. Also, being a corn-whore I really liked that extra touch. It was a bit too acidic for me to finish the whole thing though. In the end, I prefer my ceviche with leche de tigre sauce as the one I had at La Mar Cebicheria (in Lima - I thought the SF one was not as great) - a subtle tang and more focus on the fish instead.

Next I had two of their favorite tacos:
Yucatan pork taco ($2.50) - roasted achiote pork, pickled onion, orange salsa
crispy Baja fish taco ($3.00) - chipotle honey, creamy salsa fresca
Both of these tacos were great. The price point for tacos here are higher than other "taco trucks" and the portion smaller yet that higher price is worth it. These tacos weren't simply "put together." The ingredients are fresher, leaner, higher quality and you won't feel like as much as a grease pit as you usually might after a taco run. The condiments are well thought out and complement the main ingredient. I particularly liked the fish taco. The crispy breading held a meaty and juicy piece of fish. With the creamy salsa fresca? It's like fish n chips with a kick.

Dessert options here are still limited. I tried their Churro bites ($3.00) dulce de leche infused churros, cinnamon sugar, whipped cream
Unlike your usual crunchy churro, these infused churro bites are doughy. I liked the dulce de leche infusion but still preferred it crunchy outside like a typical churro.

I'm now a bit bummed about going to the truck before the Gold standard event though, since apparently there they served an amazing avocado and fried quinoa taco that both vegetarians and carnivores alike rave about.

Border Grill Truck
http://www.bordergrill.com/bg_t/bg_twel.htm
Twitter: @BorderGrill
Border Grill Truck (multiple locations) on Urbanspoon
Border Grill Truck in Los Angeles

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Street Food, Hollywood-style

The infamous $16 pho. The $10 kaya toast that everyone loved but that I'm used to getting for less than $1 back home. These were all reasons I haven't checked out Susan Feniger's STREET until now. The concept is awesome. Street food from all over the world, all in one spot. In Hollywood. But one kitchen and how many countries? Can they pull it off?

I finally gave in and tried it the dinner suggestions thrown at me were Thai and Indian. Well, let's have both then! Both and more. So here goes. Ain't gonna compare to "real street food". Will just see how is this Hollywood restaurant faring overall.
STREET is hip-casual. Not exactly street-vendor ambiance but, hey, you still don't have to wear a tie. Besides the main dining area, you can also walk-in for the bar or counter or patio or the "lounge" upstairs. They do get crowded around 8 PM so walk-ins = long wait.

When we came we got seated upstairs where I got a nice view of the restaurant. We were also the only people up there so I can go flash-happy shamelessly :P
Besides the food, STREET also offers a variety of cocktails and also interesting non-alcoholic drinks such as three types of lassi, crysanthemum tea, etc.

I opted for the Cantaloupe-Beet Agua Fresca ($3)
I loved it. Loved it quite a bit. Not to worry, there's no strange vegetal aftertaste from the beets as the sweetness of the cantaloupe manages to take care of that. Yet the beet smoothes out the cantaloupe.

We started with some Scandinavian Beet & Apple Salad (black currants, toasted walnuts, juniper vinaigrette) - $9
Maybe it doesn't seem very 'ethnic street food' since it looks like a salad you'll get at a Californian restaurant. Regardless, it was an excellent salad. The beets were fresh and sweet. Yes, this is overall a sweet salad with the beets, apple, and walnuts. On the other hand it's not overly sweet and the texture kick from the walnuts are great.

Stir fried noodles with shrimp (pork belly, chinese broccoli, choy sum greens) - $18
This was the table favorite, but it came at a higher price than the other dishes. Very flavorful with a rather sweet sauce - oyster sauce, perhaps? The thick noodles were slippery and had a nice texture and they were generous enough with the shrimps and pork belly.

Indian Vada Dumplings (crispy dal fritters topped with yogurt sauce, mint sauce, and tamarind date chutney) - $8
Thought these were okay. The dal fritters themselves were pretty bland without the sauces accompanying it.

Vietnamese corn with pork belly - $6
The corn was very sweet and delicious! Personally I thought the pork belly was kind of superfluous. But it didn't detract from the dish, so it's okay.

Mandoo vegetable dumplings (asian veggies, sweet potato noodles, roasted honey yam, sesame dipping sauce) - $9
These were also okay. The filling was pretty small, although the dough was good and the dumplings were cooked well, but otherwise it did not stand out. Also, were these supposed to be Korean? If it weren't for the name, I can't tell.

Lamb Kofta Skewers (spiced ground lamb served over baked white beans, roasted artichokes, grilled vegetable and tomato jam) - $24
The lamb was tender and nicely flavored. The artichokes were also delicious. This was also a hit for our table, though again, came at a high price of $24.

I steered away from the pho. And while you guys should try the kaya toast, I'm waiting to get mine back home very soon since my trip home is only a few months away.

Total bill: ~$100 for 3 people.
STREET is a good LA restaurant and it does provide a fun experience for all diners with their very eclectic menu, both food and drinks. Price point is Hollywood-price, though I thought the appetizers and small plates were much better-priced than the entrees. Oh and you've read the reviews, so you know what to steer away from. Don't expect authenticity but you can expect good ingredients, good flavors with some menu highlights.

Susan Feniger's STREET
742 N. Highland Ave
Los Angeles, CA 90038
(323) 203-0500
www.eatatstreet.com
Street Restaurant on Urbanspoon
STREET in Los Angeles

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