Thursday, February 25, 2010

Underground Dinner Parties

Our friend Kevin started this new dining society called Just Call It a Dinner Party. Basically he puts on dinner once a month at a friend's home. He charges $30 for a multi-course meal and wine. Oh, and did we mention he works at Providence and is an amazing chef?!

We've been to two of his dinners so far -- both hosted in Silverlake. The first one was more of an outdoor, Summer-themed meal. He served a roasted corn and bacon salad to die for. He took some fresh corn-on-the-cob and cut off the kernels, mixed in some salty, crisped up bacon, added juicy grape tomatoes, and sprinkled it with red onion for a bitter touch. He also put together a proscuitto and squash blossom salad. He added shavings of parmesan and cucumbers for crunch. Finally he drizzled a generous helping of some of the most aged balsamic vinegar we've ever tasted (the vinegar was so thick and so sweet -- delicious).

For the main attraction, he grilled up an amazing piece of white fish, steamed a generous helping of clams, and prepared grilled steaks for the non-fish lovers.. The fish was served on a chopping block, so everyone could help themselves family style. He also brought out some perfectly crisped potatoes, which made for some amazing warmed up leftovers for days to come. We rounded out the dinner with homemade sorbet and fresh figs.

The most recent dinner was seated inside and set up a bit more formally. We started with warmed olive bread, served alongside whipped butter. First course was a bean cassoulet (a stew of sorts) with fresh beans, greens, and squid. Then out came little bits of roasted cauliflower with parmesan shavings. This was hands-down the best way we've ever eaten cauliflower -- bite size pieces, roasted until golden brown, which even created a sweetness to the vegetable. Then, to top it off, salty creamy parmesan. The last of the first courses was a sauteed potato and onion mixture. The dish was reminiscent of the potatoes from Kevin's Summer meal, but we didn't mind. They were crispy on the outside, soft in the middle, and deliciously oniony.

This specific dinner event was unique because several people wrote in that they were vegetarian or had food allergies -- so to accomdate everyone, Kevin served up 4 main courses. Keep in mind, all these dishes were family style, so you can try anything and everything you want. In the shellfish arena, we were served scallops with a deep, smoky romesco sauce and steamed clams in an herbed broth. For the vegetarians: a potato and kimchi pancake with fried egg. And for the meat lovers: delicious, tender pork belly. The potato pancake was one of the more unique dishes we've seen prepared. Kevin mixed in homemade, pungent kimchi to the shredded potato and then proceeded to make a pancake the size of a dinner plate. We broke the egg yoke and spread it all over the pancake to add a creamy aspect to the dish.

Finally, we rounded out the evening with some homemade sorbet and cheese.

We can't wait for the next dinner - Sun, Mar 7! If you're interested, email and sign up. There should still be a couple of spots left. The dinner will be located in Echo Park and is guaranteed to be a fun and delicious time.

Here's the menu:
cute little hors d’oeuvres
santa barbara spot prawns & grits
sweetbreads lime/chile/queso fresco
pommes lyonnaise
korean short ribs, braised french style
fava beans a la plancha

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

LA Food Fest 2009

We headed over to the LA Street Food Fest this past Saturday. After we got over the tragic lines (we were one of the lucky ones who only waited an hour to get in), we got down to enjoying ourselves and the immense amount of street food. We ended up eating enough to satisfy ourselves for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, and neither of us spent more than $25.

We had a plan of attack once we got in: one of us would wait in a popular long line (Ludo's Fried Chicken was our obvious choice) and the other would run to a shorter line (like Coolhaus or Del's Frozen Lemonade), pick up two portions, and bring it back to the other. This way we could make the most of our time and sample the most food. Yes, we are food crazed. Here's the low-down on what we got:

After a long wait in the entrance line on a hot, mid-70s day, the first thing we bought was Del's Frozen Lemonade (peach mango and watermelon). The slushies were refreshing - only complaint was that the watermelon flavor was pretty weak.

Next up was Coolhaus (because one should always start the day with dessert). Coolhaus specializes in homemade ice cream sandwiches. We sampled 4 mini flavors - chocolate chip cookies with maple bourbon bacon ice cream, gingersnap cookies with wasabi ice cream, brownies with strawberry ice cream, and brownies with mint chip. Maple bourbon bacon for sure won our hearts with the salty-sweet mix, but strawberry was a close second.

Bourbon brought back some Komodo tacos next. We tried 2 signature tacos (steak tacos with guacamole), 1 cheeseburger taco (you can figure that one out), and a short rib and cucumber taco. Actually, the cheeseburger won! As weird as it sounds, it was delicious! Nice ground meat with good lettuce and cheese toppings, and they had a special sauce that was pretty close to In 'n Outs. We'd get it again.

Bleu ran into some friends while running around and got to try some of Gastrobus' slow-cooked pork with grits and pickled onions. She's a sucker for the creamy goodness of grits paired with tender pork. So obviously she loved it.

Then came Louk's beef and lamb gyro. This is the first time either of us have seen the gyro prepared the true Greek way -- served with french fries inside of it. Yes, this is how they actually do it in Greece and it makes it taste so much better - healthier too, ha :) The gyro was a generous size, with plenty of shaved meat, fresh tomatoes, and red onion, which added tons of flavor.

Time for something sweet- we headed to Get Shaved, the shaved ice truck. We ordered a 3 flavor bowl with POG (passion orange guava), Lychee, and Tiger's Blood. We get a pour of sweet cream to top it all off. This shaved ice stole the day. Up until this point, it was our favorite purchase. It reminded us of the fluffy and silken Matsumoto shaved ice you can only get in Hawaii.

Finally we rounded out the day with the infamous Ludo's Fried Chicken. And yes, for all of you wondering, we waited in a 2 hour and 15 minute line to order the chicken. And then waited 2 additional hours to receive our order. But, yes, that was the best damn 4 hour and 15 minute fried chicken we've ever had. Quick background: Ludo Lefebvre is a famous Los Angeles chef, most notably for serving as Executive Chef at Bastide from 2004-2006. He decided to "surprise" the food fest by taking over a food truck for one day and one day only. The only thing he was selling was fried chicken. Basically, $5 got you 2 (large) pieces of chicken, soaked in buttermilk and rosemary, deep friend in a thick golden batter and served with sweet and spicy piquillo pepper sauce. We think the picture says it all.

All in all, we got to try tons of delicious food. All in all, the day was worth it. But boy did we enjoy a line-exhausted, food coma-driven nap afterwards.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

For the love of ramen

We got a recommendation to try out Daikokuya in Little Tokyo for a superb ramen meal. Just a warning though, this place is not for the impatient. The wait on a Tuesday at 8pm for 2 people was over an hour, but the food is definitely worth it and once you're seated, the service is quick.

Bleu ordered the Daikoku ramen ($8.50) and Bourbon ordered the Daikoku ramen combination with shredded pork rice bowl and salad ($10.95). We both asked for some hot tea (free, nice!) The salad came out first -- shredded cabbage with a creamy dressing. Good crunch with a bitter touch. Then out came the pork bowl. The shredded pork is actually bits of slow cooked Kurobuta pork belly...delicious. There's a nice and simple teriyaki-esque sauce (not too sweet, not too salty), some green onions, and lots of dried seaweed shreds. Bourbon said it tasted like the best Yoshinoya bowl he had ever eaten. It could actually suffice for dinner in itself, but we were here to indulge in the ramen.

The ramen was made up of 4 main components: 1) The tonkotsu broth -- the broth was cloudier than we were used to. We're guessing there was a hefty amount of miso. Overall the broth had a strong umami taste - meaty and filling. Great to slurp down. 2) The ramen noodles - this was our only complaint to the meals. The noodles were undercooked, which caused them to stick together and made for more difficult eating. Apparently this complaint is consistent with the rest of the online reviews. 3) The soft boiled marinated egg - The yoke was still loose when we broke into it. Added some creaminess. Bleu's favorite part of the ramen 4) The pork -- thin pieces of pork belly laid on top of the ramen. The best part was the equal part of meat to fat in each thin strip, and the thin nature allowed it to melt in easily with the ramen. Not quite as delicious as the chunks of pork belly from the rice bowl, but added a nice meatiness to the meal.

Overall, Daikokuya is a must hit spot for any ramen fan in Los Angeles. Plus, it's on Jonathan Gold's 99 Essential LA Restaurants (another checkmark for us!).

Little Tokyo
327 E 1st St (between Central and San Pedro)

Monday, February 8, 2010

Lazy Farmers' Market Saturdays

There's something about sleeping in on a Saturday and riding your bike down to the Santa Monica Farmer's Market. The world feel as if it's a happier, more wholesome place where everyone smiles and waves at each other.

For this reason and the fact that farmers' market produce is just plain better, we've made a point of going at least once a month (if not every weekend). This past trip, we made some good buys and cooked up this fantastic lunch that we figured we'd share here.

First up, Bleu has an obsession with roasting heirloom carrots. These are nothing like your ordinary mini, precut orange carrots. These are dense and flavorful and come in purple and white and golden orange. The baby heirloom carrots (about 1-2 inches in length) are the best -- and show up usually around late Spring. We like to toss about a pound of carrots with some good olive oil, a hefty amount of kosher salt (Maldon is a favorite), some pepper, and about 2 tablespoons of cumin. Roast the carrot mix at 475 degrees for about 45 minutes, but check on them after 30 minutes to make sure they're not overcooking.

We also picked up a vibrant bundle of some long asparagus. We steamed the asparagus so that it glowed green, seasoned it with some salt and pepper, topped it with a spoonful of pesto, and shaved fresh Parmesan on top. Then - the ultimate part - we placed two freshly poached eggs on top.

Not gonna lie, we love poached eggs. You know how some people put ketchup on everything? Well, Bleu could put poached eggs on anything. So it is very convenient that Bourbon has become quite the master at poaching eggs. Here's some tips for perfecting the poach: In a saucepan, add about 2-3 cups of water and 2-3 tablespoons of white vinegar and bring to a heavy simmer, then turn the heat down to medium low. (Warning: Do not skimp on the vinegar; it helps the eggs form together into the nice, round poaching shape and won't let them stick to the bottom too much). Crack your eggs into a ramekin (or use a coffee mug, like us, if you don't own ramekins) before pouring into the water. You'll want to crack and pour each egg individually. Once the eggs start to rise up from the bottom of the pan (about 2-3 minutes), use a spoon to lightly gather the out edges of the egg whites and fold over the yoke. When the eggs are done (about 4 minutes total), use a slotted spoon to gently pull them out of the water. Pat dry with a paper towel (no water is key), then serve!

Santa Monica Farmer's Market
Arizona Ave, from 2nd to 4th.
Saturdays, 8:30 am - 1:00 pm

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Babycakes -- the healthy side of sweets

This morning we headed over to Babycakes NYC for the second time. It's the newest bakery to make the jump from New York, and it specializes in vegan, gluten-free, and sugar-free pastries. They bake up everything from cookies and cupcakes to breakfast goods like biscuits, donuts, and cinnamon buns.

We know what you're thinking -- how could any bakery that eliminates sugar, butter, and gluten be any good? Well, we don't know the exact science behind it -- but this place is DELICIOUS.

Our past two visits have both been in the morning, so we've tried out mainly breakfast items -- chocolate glazed donut, coconut lemon donut, biscuit with raspberry jam and vanilla, and blueberry crumb cake. Buuuttt we also managed to sneak in a miniature chocolate chip cookie sandwich. Babycakes NYC serves gluten-free items and pastries sweetened with agave, as well as vegan treats made with spelt (a less processed grain that is an ancient relative of wheat, but contains gluten). The great thing about these ingredients is they don't give you that sugar high and crash. And they fill you up for quite some time and make you feel good, not guilty about your sweet tooth.

Our favorite of the treats would have to be the biscuit (with raspberry jam and vanilla) and the cookie sandwich. We know, random right? This biscuit is creamy and flaky, with a generous helping of raspberry jelly and some vanilla custard-like spread. It went perfectly with our Stumptown coffee. (and yes, they serve real milk to go with the coffee. Bleu was nervous about that one). The cookie sandwich was made up of two chocolate chip cookies with a big spoonful of vanilla frosting in between. Again, the right mix of sweet and creamy. We opted for the mini the first time (only because it was with breakfast), but we could go for a full-sized one (or two!) next time.

B&b's Savings Secret: Monday is "Day Old Day" and all stock is 50% off!

Babycakes Bakery
Downtown LA
130 6th Street (in between Main and Los Angeles)