Friday, July 30, 2010

Little Senegalese at Bissap Baobab (San Francisco)

Senegal (French: le Sénégal), officially the Republic of Senegal ... is a country south of the Sénégal River in western Africa.
--from Wikipedia

Besides the fact that it was in Africa, everything I knew about Senegal (for example, their official language is French) right before my dinner at Bissap Baobab I owe to a quick read of the Wikipedia article. We were greeted by a tall well-built guy speaking French.

The place was hopping and we had to wait a few minutes for a table. I decided to have a drink and tried the Tusker, a Kenyan pale lager ($4)

My friends went instead with the Coconut-infused rum. Be careful with these, they are as easy to drink as a Calpico soda and you can get drunk in no time (plus they're reasonably priced, making getting drunk even easier).

While we were waiting at a bar for a table, the bartender gave us some piping hot plantains for free!
Aloko (fried plantains, tamarind sauce - $4.75)
Well, it's hard to mess up fried plantains, and the tamarind sauce was an unusual but delicious accompaniment.

Though I was wary having African cuisine given my first experience involving mango pits (Nigerian), the appetizers we tried all had familar flavor profiles. The somone was similar to a potato croquette, a bit sweetened by corn and served with a creamy avocado sauce instead of aioli.
Somone (mashed potatoes mixed with corn, parsley, garlic, flour, and milk. Served with avocado sauce - $6.25)

The menu explained where many of the dishes came from, and I had no choice but to order the Tiep Dien since it was supposed to be the official dish of Senegal.
Tiep Dien (Red Snapper cooked with red Jolof rice - $18)

This somewhat reminded me of a seafood paella + jambalaya. The snapper is meaty and while it could be a little more moist, it was plenty flavorful and so was the rice. A rustic, comfort food dish. The Brazilians have their feijoada and the Senegalese have their tiep dien.

Bissap Baobab was a much better African food experience than my first, with more familiar flavors (I'm not trying to say the restaurant I went to before was bad, perhaps I'm just not used to it). It was a good, hearty meal with tasty and reasonably priced drinks and a fun vibe. Service was pretty slow though, so don't come here when you're in a hurry.

Bissap Baobab
2323 Mission St
San Francisco, CA 94110
(415) 826-9287
Bissap Baobab on Urbanspoon

Thursday, July 29, 2010

This Weekend and Beyond: Cook-Off, Chef's Night Out, Wine Fest and more

Saturday, July 31st

Celebrity Chef Cook-off at The Grove
Top Chef contestants Betty Fraser and Alex Reznik (Ivan Kane's Cafe Was) will battle it out this weekend at The Park at The Grove from 6-8pm. The event is free and open to the public and there will be tastings from various restaurants. Read: Free cooking demo and free food!

Sunday, August 1st

Wally's Central Coast Wine + Food Celebration
About 50 Central Coast wineries and top LA restaurants are confirmed for this extravaganza. Indulge in food from Comme Ca, Lucques, Spago, Jar, Osteria Mozza and The Hungry Cat paired with excellent wines to benefit The Michael Bonaccorsi Scholarship Fund at the UC Davis Department of Enology.
Tickets are $95 and can be purchased here.
Wally's Wine. 2107 Westwood Blvd. Los Angeles, CA 90025. 12-4 pm

Angeleno Magazine's Chef's Night Out
This event celebrates Angeleno Magazine's Annual Restaurant Issue, where James Beard Award-winning food critic Brad Johnson will present awards to what he deems LA's best chefs and restaurants in 2010 while guests wine and dine. Expect to see Chef of the Year Michael Cimarusti of Providence and runner-up Ludo Lefebvre from Ludobites, the Hatfields from their namesake Restaurant of the Year, and Best New Chef Michael Voltaggio.
VIP reception starts at 4:30 and the main event starts at 5:30 pm.
Tickets are $95 for general admission, $150 VIP and can be purchased here (use code ANG10 to get $20 off GA tickets).
Proceeds go to the LA's Best after-school enrichment program.
Fairmont Miramar Hotel & Bungalows. 101 Wilshire Blvd, Santa Monica


Looking Ahead:
On Saturday, August 14, sommelier-turned-wine-maker Joshua Klapper will showcase his 2008 releases of La Fenêtre wines, paired with small dishes by Chef Neal Fraser of Grace/BLD. The $29 ticket (use code 'JOSH' to get $10 off of $39) will allow you to taste 8 wines paired with 8 dishes. While the website says the menu may change based on market availability, it teases with Crab Salad, Bay Scallops, and Squab crostini. Sounds like a great deal to me!
Seatings are available at 5, 6:30, and 8 pm. Tickets can be purchased here.
LearnAboutWine Loft/Loft 218. 530 Molino St, Los Angeles, California 90013

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Ice Cream Social at Rosa Mexicano

Rosa Mexicano at the L.A. Live holds "festivals" to introduce the flavors of Mexico from time to time. For the month of July, they are holding an ice cream festival, Festival de Helados, with ten flavors of ice cream and sorbet. Rosa Mexicano developed these ice cream and sorbet in conjuction with MILK on Beverly Blvd and Fosselman's in Alhambra.

Last week I was invited to an "Ice Cream Social" to taste all these flavors. After an 80-degree afternoon, I was ready.

We started with a bottle of Modelo beer and a small scoop of the Pomegranate hibiscus sorbet.
Followed by the Sea salt cajeta (goat's milk caramel). You can really taste the goat's milk here, which I really enjoyed.

Tomatillo lime ice was a favorite of mine and one of the more intriguing flavors.
Not too sweet and very refreshing, this also made a great float with the Modelo beer.

Pomegranate mint chocolate chip fudge swirl was a delicious combination of flavors.
I liked this flavor a lot and lucky for you, according to Caroline on Crack, they're keeping this one on the regular menu.

Cookies and cream + Negra Modelo float.
The Negra Modelo also went well with the Mexican Chocolate.

They also have homemade toppings available. My favorite was the Strawberry Crisp which was made with corn flakes and strawberry puree.

I ended up mostly enjoying the Caramel popcorn and the crack-n-peel peanuts as snacks rather than toppings.

We put the strawberry crisp topping on one of my favorites, blueberry and crema (creme fraiche).
I really liked the tartness that came from the creme fraiche.

Unfortunately you only have until August 1st to try all ten flavors, but some of them will remain on the regular menu if you can't make it by then! Also, you can also ask to see if they have any left. See if they have another of my favorite: the sweet corn caramel.

Rosa Mexicano
800 W Olympic Blvd
Los Angeles, California 90015
(213) 746-000

Monday, July 26, 2010

East LA Meets Napa Returns Big

East LA Meets Napa, the annual fundraiser benefiting AltaMed, is a special event for Los Angeles. Not only does it raise money for free quality healthcare for those who need it the most, it is the only event of its caliber that gathers Latin restaurants around town and Latino-owned or operated wineries of California under the same roof.

Well, technically there's no roof.

East LA Meets Napa is held at the courtyards of Union Station
There are two connected courtyards at Union Station and while last year's event occupied only one of them, this year they expanded to both and even filling up the adjoining hallway.

There's even a mariachi band making its way around the event.
As wine kept flowing, people started to salsa on and in front of the stage.

The evening started with a VIP reception at Traxx, which had more wine tasting - some of which were also available at the main event. This year's event is also special since in accordance with Mexico's bicentennial anniversary, they also had wineries from Baja's Valle de Guadalupe participating, along with guest chef Patricia Quintana from restaurant Izote in Mexico City.

There were plenty of Napa cabs, but at the VIP reception we also got to try a sweet blend of late harvest grapes from Ceja.

I had my first tastes of Cook's Tortas. It's not the full experience but a great teaser, using the same bread they use in their regular tortas. I'll be making it out there soon.

It would be impossible to go through everything, but here are some highlights:

Wild boar & duck carnitas from Cacao Mexicatessen

Chapulines (grasshopper) tostada from La Huasteca

These weren't as good as Guelaguetza's chapulines but it was fun having my friends try them for the first time.

Golden gazpacho with poached shrimp and Israeli couscous from Setá

Various desserts from Porto's Bakery

There were more of course, here's a slideshow of the others:

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Specialty's Cafe & Bakery: Westside's New Grab & Go Breakfast and Lunch

Specialty's Cafe & Bakery recently opened up shop in an office building on Santa Monica Blvd, just next to the 405. Their menu offers salads, sandwiches, soups, and of course baked goods. Perfect for the office worker.

You can either order from the computer kiosks or go to an actual person at the register. For the busy workers, they take orders online so you can just come and pick it up right away.

They will validate for 1 hour parking so you can enjoy your quick meal in the dining room.
I knew nothing about Specialty's before, but apparently this San Francisco-founded-and-based business now has 30 stores in California, Washington State, and Illinois. Being a bakery, they also make everything from scratch.

Specialty's has actually partnered with Peet's Coffee and there is always a Peet's inside each Specialty's store serving your drinks. I tried the Jasmine Lime iced tea which I actually really liked. I've been meaning to return to a Peet's soon to have this again, especially now that the real summer is underway.
I was invited to their pre-launch party where we were given $10 to spend. I came for breakfast so I decided to try one of their breakfast sandwiches: the Southwestern Egg & Cheese Breakfast Sandwich.
Made with their ciabatta roll and cheddar, their eggs are mixed in with salsa, peppers, and corn. The toasted ciabatta was light with a nice crunchy crust, but the overall combination with the egg was too dry for my taste. I couldn't taste the salsa and I do think either the eggs could be cooked less or use more cheese. I did like the flavor that the corn added. Well, I just like corn.

The triple chocolate mini bundt cake ($2.49) on the other hand was so moist and rich. I loved the strong chocolate flavor.
They were also passing out bites of other baked goods, including their brownies (try their Lover's Lane brownie for something decadent. I really enjoyed this double fudge brownie topped with coconut and walnut).

Specialty's is really gearing up for people to pre-order on the phone and online. All the phone calls are directed to a central line - you won't get people actually working at your location picking up the phone, they need to be busy serving their customers. It's an interesting model, but hey, online orders are convenient. For those working in the area, it's a welcome addition to Zankou and Yoshinoya. I'd be grabbing some bundt cake or brownie and a cup of Peet's iced tea from time to time.

Specialty's Cafe & Bakery
11150 Santa Monica Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA 90025
(877) 502-2837

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Honolulu: Searching for Poke In the Back of a Liquor Store

They were confused when I pulled into the parking lot of Tamura's Fine Wine & Liquor. I told them we were getting poke - I didn't tell them where we were going. Who would've guessed that a liquor store sells poke? But they sure do, enter and turn right to the back and you'll find a deli case filled with about a dozen poke selection.
I wouldn't have known that Tamura's liquor store sells poke - and very good ones at that - either if it wasn't for OishiiEats' blog post. While Food, She Thought preferred Ono Seafood's poke, those two places seemed to be the favorites. My navigation skill was too poor to find Ono Seafood, so I could only try Tamura's this time around.

It was hard to choose among so many varieties, or even to figure out how much I would need to get full, but they do let you sample pretty much everything. I ended up getting the Ahi with Tamura sauce which was a slightly sweet, teriyaki-like sauce.
This seems to be a pretty classic preparation and the ahi was very fresh. Compared to the other two that I got, though, this doesn't stand out.

We also got the Tako Limu (seaweed) which I enjoyed quite a bit.
The octopus was cooked perfectly and had a great texture. It was seasoned just right - no overwhelming saltiness that covered up the freshness of the octopus itself. The best part, however, was the texture combination of the chewy but tender tako and the "slimy-crunch" of the seaweed.

My vote for best poke of the day goes out to the Ahi Sea Asparagus.
The saltiness of the sea asparagus carried a very special flavor that complements the fresh ahi very well. Think lightly salted fresh ahi with extra textural support. Combined with the macadamia bits they make an amazing poke.

Since I haven't tried Ono Seafood's poke, I can't say if this is "the best" in Honolulu or not, but you can't go wrong with Tamura. Grab two or three tubs of poke and you'd be more than satisfied.

Tamura's Fine Wine & Liquors
3496 Waialae Avenue, Honolulu
(808) 735-7100
Tamura's Fine Wine & Liquors on Urbanspoon

Honolulu, Hawaii

Alan Wong's Restaurant
Ono Hawaiian Foods
Tamura's Fine Wine & Liquor

Diamond Head

Kahala Resort

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Get Cultured, Gnaw on BBQ Ribs

We were sitting in the night breeze of Little Tokyo, listening to an amazingly talented woman recite her poems about kings and fems, a Boston-based spoken-word duo BrownStar prophesying Kal Penn, our fingers sticky with bbq sauce, gnawing on a giant beef rib.

Just another night at Tuesday Night Cafe.

Tuesday Night Project is the longest-running free public arts series in LA. For the past 12 years, every 1st and 3rd Tuesdays the TNProject brings the community together to listen, see, and perform music, poetry, plays, improv comedy, and anything else you can think of.

Johneric Concordia from The Park's Finest BBQ has been a long time supporter and resident host of Tuesday Night Cafe. In fact, he always feeds the staff and performers of TN Cafe with his delish 'cue.

To get more exposure of Tuesday Night Cafe and their annual fundraiser TN Party (more on that later), TN Project invited a few bloggers to the Cafe on July 6th, enticing us with some Park's Finest BBQ. Park's Finest only does catering right now with a minimum order of $300, so I thought it was a good opportunity to try the 'cue that Pleasure Palate claims to be the best in town. Plus, I've been missing the whole art and poetry culture since college.

I tried a plateful or stuff, including a wonderfully tender leg of chicken with a great spice rub, pork ribs, rib eye roast, and beef ribs.
If you ask Johneric what style bbq he serves, he'll say that it's true Echo Park style. "You don't get shot if you can cook," is another thing he'd tell you. Johneric is Filipino so you can see some Filipino influence like in his famous Concordia sauce that's flavored with coconut or the flavors in his spice rub.
It's all about the bbq sauce on them ribs.

The Mt. Mayon hot sausage links were spicy but so good. I had to go to the cafe next door with my mouth burning and my fingers sticky to buy a bottle of water but it was well worth it.

The cornbread they serve is a riff on traditional Filipino dessert called Bibingka, which is usually made with rice flour, sugar, and coconut.

These Tuesday nights are free for you and everyone (PS. there's one going on tonight July 20!), but nothing is ever really free. TN Project has to somehow pay for all the sound equipments, lighting, etc. The donation box that goes around isn't going to cut it.

If you want to support this ongoing community project, you can help by attending the TN Party on July 31st. There will also be a silent auction of various donated items. Both the ticket and silent auction proceeds will go towards keeping TN Project alive and kickin'. Not only that, this is one of the rare opportunities where you can go and buy a plate of The Park's Finest BBQ instead of having to throw a whole party!

Tickets are $15 pre-sale and $20 at the door. There will of course be live performances and plenty of raffle prizes. Park's Finest BBQ and Good Girl Dinette will also be on location serving up some good food.
TN Party. JACCC Plaza (244 S San Pedro St). July 31, 2010, 5-11 PM.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Walk Beverly Blvd with Food GPS for a Progressive Meal

This Sunday, July 25th fellow foodblogger Food GPS is holding a walking tour of Beverly Blvd. A walking/eating tour, naturally. He will guide participants to Eva Restaurant, BLD, Milk, and The Golden State where each chef will serve up one dish/treat/drink. It's supposed to be 74 degrees that day so it would be a pleasant walk filled with good food.

(Image borrowed from the FoodGPS website)

The walking tour starts at 3 pm at Eva Restaurant (rumor has it they will be serving their ever popular fried chicken!).

Tickets are $45 per person (all inclusive) and can be purchased here. If you have any further question ... don't ask me. Contact Josh the Food GPS at

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Westside Food Fest Benefits Individuals with Developmental Disabilities

It seems like there are plenty of food truck events popping up these days, but since they're still lacking on the westside and it benefits a good cause, why not?

The Westside Food Fest will feature a dozen food trucks (including India Jones, Manila Machine, Ahn Joo, Del's Lemonade), live music, and even raffle prizes!

100% of the ticket proceeds (a mere $5 entrance fee that may get you a raffle prize) goes to Achievable, a non-profit organization which helps individuals with developmental disabilities such as autism.

Westside Food Fest. Saturday, July 31, 12-4 pm. Venice High School (13000 Venice Blvd)
$5 entrance

Friday, July 16, 2010

Taste of Santa Fe 2010 Trip: Our Pad

Thanks to Kokopelli Real Estate & Property Management ( and Big Ink, PR, Food GPS, Mattatouille, e*starLA and I got a gorgeous adobe style compound in the Historic District for our Taste of Santa Fe trip! (EatingLA joined us later and was put up at a hotel instead)

This compound usually runs $350-500/night.

The property is actually 2 adjacent houses: the main house is a 2-bedroom 2-bathroom house with a beautiful living room (love the red couch against the clean white walls), top of the line kitchen and bathroom fixtures.

Even a stockpot faucet! Not that we'll be using it ...

The other house, separated by a narrow courtyard, is a 1B/1B with a smaller living room.

The house was so awesome, Mattatouille wants to just stay home and drink and smoke cigar instead of going out. We'll see.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Save the Date: Plate by Plate on August 14!

Plate by Plate is an annual "tasting benefit" by Project by Project (such clever names). The 8th annual event is coming up on Saturday, August 14, 2010, partnering with Health Justice Network.

I'm pretty excited about the lineup because some of these I rarely see at these types of events, including Mo Chica, Bistro LQ, The Foundry, and include restaurants from celebrated names like Nobu, Craft, all the way to San Gabriel's Hot Stuff Cafe and blogger-celebrated downtown luncheonette Starry Kitchen.

Wines, limoncello, sake and beer from Stone Brewing Co. will flow freely along with POM, DRY soda, Naja tea and more. Finish with Yogurtland, desserts from Susina Bakery and Valerie Confections.

Since Health Justice Network acts as a collaborative voice for the API community for the right to quality health services, Plate by Plate will also have special API celeb attendees, Aziz Ansari included.

Advance purchase tickets are $125 or $200 for VIP and can be purchased here.
But act fast and get the regular tickets here on Goldstar for just $68!

Plate by Plate
Saturday, August 14, 2010
6:00PM–7:00PM · VIP Reception
7:00PM–10:00PM · Main Event
700 State Drive, Los Angeles, CA 90037

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

April Bloomfield Dinner at Melisse: The Menu

The Summer Guest Chef series at Melisse continues. Yes, I'll be attending this one!

Chef April Bloomfield from
The Spotted Pig, New York on
Monday, July 26, 2010.

Amuse Bouche

First Course
Heirloom Tomato Gazpacho
Crisp Olives

Second Course
Stuffed Squid Basquaise-Nduja
Forbidden Rice, Olympic Garden Tomatoes, Espellete

Third Course
Boudin Blanc
Sauteed Market Potatoes, Basil and Pickled Mustard Seed

Fourth Course
Arctic Char
Spiced Lentils, Anchovy-Pine Nut Bread Crumb

Fifth Course
Snake River Farms Wagyu Beef
Chanterelle Mushrooms, Sweet White Corn, Summer Truffles, "Jus de Bouef Acidule"

Strawberry, Basil and Pistachio

Each Menu will be $150
(not inclusive of alcohol, tax or gratuity)

A portion from each reservation will be donated to Southern California Special Olympics

For reservations please call 310-395-0881

Monday, July 12, 2010

Recipe: Red Beet Risotto by Chef Ray Garcia, FIG Restaurant

Los Angeles Magazine held another In The Kitchen event on June 16th at the Snyder Diamond showroom in Santa Monica, this time featuring cooking demonstration by Chef Ray Garcia of FIG restaurant.

I'll have a full report out soon, but in the meantime, you can enjoy the recipe for this delicious Red Beet Risotto from Chef Garcia!
It's made with vegetable stock too so it's healthier, lighter, and vegetarian friendly.

Red Beet Risotto

Chef Ray Garcia
FIG Restaurant
Santa Monica, CA

Beetroot Purée
2 red beets
1/2 medium onion
16 oz vegetable stock

5 cups Carnaroli Rice
1 onion, finely diced
1 bay leaf
7 oz red wine
2 cups vegetable stock
4 oz beetroot puree
3 oz unsalted butter
3 oz parmesan cheese
2 oz crème fraiche
2 tbsp chopped dill
2 tbsp chives

5 each: yellow & red baby carrots, white & green asparagus
10 pieces golden beetroot

1. Boil red beets and onion until soft. Transfer to blender or food processor and purée. Set aside for later.
2. In a new pot, heat 1 tbsp oil and sauté onion until fragrant.
3. Add rice and bay leaf, cook for 2 minutes.
4. Pour wine into pot and allow to reduce by 3/4.
5. Add stock, one ladle at a time (wait until previous stock boils off before adding more), and stir frequently until risotto achieves desired texture.
6. Add beet purée and stir to incorporate. Finish with butter, parmesan cheese, crème fraiche, herbs, salt and pepper.
7. Blanch vegetables for garnish in salted water. Sauté with butter and season with salt and pepper.
8. Serve risotto in a medium-sized bowl, topped with sautéed vegetables.

Friday, July 9, 2010

Ondal 2: Spicy Rib and Crab Soup Heaven

Ondal 2 is well known for their kkot gae tang a.k.a. Spicy Korean Crab Soup, a bubbling pot of crabs, vegetables, and sprouts in a spicy broth.
Once you're seated, they will have you wear a red apron (ok, bib). Things are going to get messy.

The banchan spread is pretty impressive here.
Besides the usual suspects, you'd also get a whole fried mackerel ...
... and a whole spicy crab.

Their soups aren't cheap - a medium order may run you $55, though it will feed 3 people. There were six of us so we got two medium orders of different soup.

Here's the Spicy Crab Soup (menu item #2).
Your server will empty the contents of the crab shells onto your bowls and fill the shells with white rice, continuing cook them in the pot.
Alternate between slurping spicy, crab-flavored broth and bean sprouts and cracking crab legs. That's bliss.

When you're done with your crab meat and rice, you're not done yet! Next they tear off some dough into the still boiling pot.

The other item the waitress had recommended was the spicy beef rib stew, mae-oon sohgalbi jjim (I think this was #12?), which turned out to be even better than the crab soup!
The soup is actually more flavorful than the crab soup, and filled with ribs so tender they wonderfully give way upon your first bite.
While the crab soup was good, it was this that stole our hearts. I'd definitely return for this rib stew.

No pasta here, but they will instead use the remaining broth for some fried rice! Always one of my favorite part of a Korean meal ... It's that concentrated broth that's absorbed by the rice, it's that crisped rice at the edge of the pot.

Some shikhae (rice drink) to cleanse our palates. I always like shikhae, I sometimes wish I can just order a whole glass.

If you have never tried korean spicy crab soup (kkot gae tang), Ondal 2 is definitely worth going to for that, but it's the spicy rib stew that I'll be returning again and again for.

Ondal 2
4566 W Washington Blvd
Los Angeles, CA 90016
(323) 933-3228
Ondal 2 on Urbanspoon

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