Tag Archives: los angeles

Animal Restaurant: Girls Gone Wild

21 Jun

Imagine this scenario: 5 girls, 3 bottles of house Chardonnay, 10 starters, and 3 entrees. There is no other phrase for that besides: Girls Gone Wild. Also, all but 2 of those dishes were meat based, so these girls surely got their meat on. Where did we have this meat-astic frenzy? Why it was at Animal, of course. In the month prior to my move from LA to SF, I managed to hit a ton of LA restaurants that I have been dying to try. I am a girl with priorities and, thankfully, I have friends that were all eager to cross of my list with me. Several weeks ago, we arrived at Animal for what we be a very long and very large meal. We missed their special vegetarian tasting menu by guest chef Jeremy Fox by one day, and I can’t say that I was bummed. As much as I drooled over The Delicious’ vegetable laden post, I wanted the true Animal experience with a lot of meat. We arrived at the restaurant and all were summoned to the very crowded bar because we would not be seated until the whole party arrived. I understand rules, but the bar was packed. When the last of our party arrived we finally were seated, where we were greeted by our waiter. My ex boyfriend used to say that your first encounter with your waiter or waitress will set the tone for the entire meal. I suppose it is similar to how women on dates will decide within seconds if they would ever sleep with the man before them. Unfortunately, this waiter was doomed for awkwardness. Our first encounter was one of the strangest interchanges regarding their cheapest bottle of wine, which obviously we got at $20 a bottle. He kept asking how many glasses we wanted because two of the girls already had glasses from the bar. We explained that everyone would be drinking the bottle we ordered and so we should all have  glasses. I guess the confusion lied in the fact that he wanted to ID the ones that didn’t already have a glass but it was the most roundabout way of asking. It required us to all sigh, say “Oh, that’s what you wanted” and whip our IDs out. We then were told that everything, with the exception of dessert, had to be ordered right away at the same time. Another rule, which was fine but it was many of our first times and we didn’t know how much to get and we were just told we couldn’t add on more. Like a true democracy of friends, foodies, and females we went down the menu and voted on each item. Here is what we ended up with:

The carrot salad, parsnip chips, green goddess, avocado was the first dish up and was one of the only non-meat items that we ordered. It was light and crunchy and a perfect way to end the ordering awkwardness and start the meal. Minty was the only one of us that had been there before and she insisted on this salad. I was glad we voted this dish in. A shaved carrot salad was a nice intro to a meat heavy meal.

The chicken liver toast was the next dish up and was more of the food I was expecting; meaty, fatty, and far heavier. I am not a huge liver fan so I took a piece and stopped there. However, the rest of my table absolutely loved this dish.

I have always loved corn nuts and the crispy hominy, lime was like the grown up version of them. They were light and had the lime tang that I  squeezed on. I often say that I am capable of ingesting the most insane quantity of popcorn and this fried hominy was just as addictive. It went from handful to mouthful in seconds flat. I also thought I was extremely clever by saying “Peace, Love, and Hominy” with every bite, I am punny.

The next dish was the open faced soft shell crab sandwich, b & b pickle slaw, rooster aioli. I loved the slaw on this dish and the soft shell crab was on a nice piece of Texas toast.

The squid, fava bean salad, bagna cauda wasn’t bad, but it was one of the weaker plates that surfaced.

And from a low light we went straight to a major highlight of the meal, the marrow bone, chimichurri, caramelized onions. I used to think that Church & State had the best bone marrow in town but boy was I wrong. This dish was the mission fruition of the meal. I have never had bone marrow this good. The chimichurri was a perfect accompaniment to the marrow. Is it just me or is Chimichurri the Argentinian equivalent to Tabbouleh? The meat was so flavorful and the onions and parsley were so delicious. This was the show stopper for me, and I am so sad I discovered it right before leaving LA. If I wasn’t in a restaurant setting and sharing with so many girls I would have gnawed on this bone for hours….like I said Girls Gone Wild

The foie gras, biscuit, maple sausage gravy was another out of this world dish. This, my friends, would make the most perfect breakfast of champions. The foie was nicely seared and as delicate as you can imagine. The biscuit was not simply with maple, as you see in a McGriddle, this was a real flaky biscuit trenched in the sweetest gravy. Trust me, I worked hard to know that each bite of this dish was well soaked.

Perhaps it was because we shared all of the dishes, I only really remember the bun and slaw on the barbecue pork belly sandwiches. I have no recollection of this meat. That means 1 of 2 things, either it wasn’t memorable or there was no meat on my sandwich bite.

I do remember the poutine, oxtail gravy, cheddar, because it is that famous Canadian dish that Minty was so looking forward to. Unfortunately, this dish let us all down, it was way too salty.

The quail fry, grits, chard, slab bacon, maple jus, on the other hand, was perfect. The Brit among the group was quoted as saying that the quail tastes as though it has gone on holiday and is getting laid. The meat was tender under the fried goodness and it was on top of a bed of pleasure. I blame this shaky camera work on my subject that was too busy laying there and getting ready to be ravaged.

I know that this will shock you but us girls did show some restraint. We only ordered 3 entrees. I wanted the flat iron, artichoke hash, truffle parmesan fondue. As soon as this dish was set on our table all you got was the most enormous whiff of truffle. It overpowered the air and this dish. I think, by now, everyone knows that everyone knows that I love artichokes and rabbit, so whenever either is on the menu I will order it. This was a heavy dish but my god was it gorgeous. Nothing that is cheese smothered is ever bad and this was not the exception.

Ah yes, I have already fully discussed my love for rabbit and have made all the double entendres to the toy with the same name but trust me this dish was picked out right away. AK missed one of my best rabbit experiences at Campanile a few months back and so she ordered this in honor of me. I love friends. The crispy rabbit legs, peas, dandelion, meyer lemon aioli had all of the joys of spring. It was fresh, the meat was moist, and is was just a perfect invigorating dish.

The foie gras loco moco, quail egg, spam, hamburger was the last of the entrees we ordered. It was an Animal staple, combining the oddest ingredients from canned “meat” to the most gourmet of meats. I don’t even know how to describe this dish and perhaps Animal did best with the word loco. This dish be mad crazy and crazy delicious.

There were some real stand out dishes in this meal, but my god the service was weird. Minty had made a comment on how each bottle of the same wine was different. The second being the most delicious. It is entirely possible as wine varies from bottle to bottle. When she made a comment to the waiter about this he said that was impossible and blamed her for having drank too much and having a tarnished palate from the food…whatever. To his credit, AK did ask if he was pregnant so I am sure he didn’t love our table. Anyway, the food was great in spite of the service. The night was so memorable for me because it was real girl time with some fantastic friends I have made in LA. I may have been the youngest at the table but when the conversation moved to Twlight (as will happen in any Girls Night Out)  I said I was Team Joseph. This caused the girls to scream and laugh and tell me it was Team Jacob. I completely and utterly fail at being a teen bopper. Fortunately, I rule at eating a ton of meat and having a Girls Gone Wild night!

Links to my dining companions:

The Minty‘s recap of the night.

AK the Salty Lawyer

Hanh of Hungry Hungry Hanh

Nicola a Brit, eater, and a marathon runner.

FIG: A Restaurant Worthy of A Date

11 Jun

I love corny, I love food (especially fruit), and I love pick-up lines. One of my favorites is: “Want a raisin? How about a date?” When I went to FIG the jokes and lines in my head ran rampant. FIG is a hotel restaurant, which I know bothers some people but for me it is such a bonus. As much as I love restaurants, I love hotels more. My college application essay was entitled, “Why I deserve to be like Merv” after my idol, Merv Griffin, and the first business plan I ever wrote was for a hotel called Hotel Fruition. I told you fruition was my favorite word. Anyway, this particular night several weeks ago was exactly what I needed. I was with good friends and I got served fantastic food, exactly what the doctor had ordered. Edward, Minty and I were joined by Jackie who reps FIG for a dinner on the patio facing the pool. The Fairmont Hotel is gorgeous and as much as it is historic and classic looking it is still hip and you can do yoga classes down the hall. All in all, a perfect Santa Monica establishment. My favorite point in any relationship is when the other person gets to know my palate. Selfish? Perhaps, but for me that is the most important thing anyone can know about another person. When Matthew Lehman, the Director of Food and Beverage of FIG, came by our table and told us the specials as soon as he said “rabbit” the table went wild. Minty and Edward pointed to me and said, “We know what you are ordering.” I have had a bit of an affair with rabbit (note: not “the rabbit”) and it is now my must have on any menu. I thank Mark Peel and Campanile for making me fall in love with this  bushy tailed critter on a plate all over again. I shouldn’t say that, it tastes like chicken…only way better. Anyway, my entree was decided for me early on so the rest of the meal was a breeze.

Not long after being seated we received a beautiful cherry salad from the chef, Ray Garcia. Tis the cherry season and after going cherry crazy all week, I was happy to have some more in a lighter fashion. Instead of popping them like peanuts all week while watching tv like I was doing at my house. This dish was elegant and light and perfectly highlighted what was in peak season, the main concept behind FIG. We were served a very nice Pinot Noir, called Bonhan-Dillon, with an even cuter story regarding pictures of the cat that was bit by a snake drawn by the wine maker’s daughter. It didn’t stop there, our table also indulged in cocktails. This Blueberry & Thyme one that Minty ordered was my favorite.

Under the Snacks and Starters sections of the menu we had the Buffalo Mozzeralla with Hand-Mashed Pesto, which I loved even though my sweet thoughtful Edward warned me that it may be too salty for my liking. He knows that I am salt sensitive and I know that he thinks that pesto is a dish made from the gods. We also had the Blistered “Little Gem” Romaine Hearts, which was like a deconstructed caeser salad with white anchovies.

Just like all good Jewish girls, I then had a delicious special of Sweet Prawns and the famous Bacon Wrapped Bacon. The shrimp was sweet, succulent, and plump and my favorite of the starters. Eating in this way, where the Chef gives you only what is in peak season really provides you, the eater, with the best quality of ingredients.  I know that this blasphemy for any foodie to say but I don’t love bacon. I like it in its thicker pork belly form but bacon alone just doesn’t do it for me. This bacon wrapped bacon was a whole different story, it was a nice thick piece of pork belly and then the thin crispy bacon surrounded it.  it was a nice change to both and it is funny how the same ingredient can still complement one another.

Manchego with Olives and Almonds was the last of our snacks, it was good but all cheese at FIG is, I will get in to that a bit later. Let me just say the second coming may be FIG’s very own personal “Cheesus.”

For my entree I had the special of the day, which was Rabbit in a White Mole Sauce. This is not a typical dish here at FIG but it should be. Apparently, on this particular day, Chef Ray Garcia was at the Farmer’s Market and saw that they had rabbit and decided then and there to buy it and make a meal around it. I, of course, have heard of white chocolate but never have I heard of a white mole sauce. It was sweet but not too sweet. The rabbit was still the main focus of the dish but it had the most perfect accents. I, like Grace Adler, love raisins in everything and this dish had them and the golden variety. There was a nice chard underneath that cut some of the sweetness, and all around this was a perfect dish. Edward said that he can’t remember the last time he tried such a good entree, and quite frankly neither can I. Mission Fruition completed, this was a foodgasm-tastic dish.

Jackie had the Red Beet Risotto, which was the most beautiful and healthiest of all of the dishes. There simply isn’t enough colorful dishes and this one filled the quota. The beautiful reds and purples of the beets dyed itself onto the rice. Underneath the risotto was creme fraiche and on top of it was mixed greens and golden beets. If beets are nature’s candy, which I believe them to be, then this dish was nature’s art and symphony. It was as pretty as it was fresh, tasty, and healthy.

Edward had the Twelve Ounce New York Strip, which was not quite as exciting as the other dishes but I do remember that I stole quite a bit of his fries. It was one of those nights where we all sampled off of our neighbors plates. Minty had bunnies as a kid, like the story goes two bunnies lead to many, and so she has an aversion to eating rabbit. I completely understand but normally Minty and I will be torn among the same dishes on the menu, so she is a good friend to have around the dining table. If the special of all specials wasn’t offered then I would have easily ordered the plate she had Short Rib and Pancetta Meatloaf. I love meatloaf and this was unlike any other I have ever had. With the specials excluded, this is the dish that is a must have at FIG.

The desserts were another place where we went crazy. Each person ordered one and then we also got a cheese plate. We had the Citrus Panna Cotta, Chocolate Pot Au Creme, Nutella and Chocolate Tart, and Peach Sorbet. I can’t even pick a favorite, they were all so fantastic. Alright, gun to my head, the Nutella Tart with candied hazelnuts and marshmallow cream. I am normally a fruity dessert girl but this dish was really fantastic. I couldn’t eat more than a couple of bites, but when it comes to dessert that is all that you need.

I mentioned “Cheesus” earlier but he really is a mystical presence at FIG. When we first saw him at the restaurant, I made a comment that he reminded me of a mad scientist. He is crazy but about the most sacred of things, cheese. He greeted the tables with such authority and when we ordered the cheese plate for dessert we knew we needed his guidance. Funny enough, as I am typing this “Jesus Walks” by Kanye West  just came on my iTunes shuffle so here is my homage: “I’m just trying to say the way school need teachers. The way Kathie Lee needed Regis that’s the way I need Cheesus” I have no idea what kind of cheese we got, nor do I remember the order he recommended we eat it, but I do now that I trusted him and he didn’t lead me astray.

Final verdict, yes, FIG is a hundred percent worthy of making a date for. You will have delicious fresh seasonal food, be told interesting stories about wine, have a cheese savior come to your rescue, and maybe even get to the next level with your friends. This was the night that Edward and I took our relationship to the next level, he got to know my palate. Swoon!

Some more reading:

Minty’s recap on this dinner

The Delicious also just wrote about FIG

I also sampled their new Hot Dogs by the pool at TOTNLA, the Taco Dog is OMG good!

The Last Night of LudoBites 4.0: It didn’t Bite, It Ruled

8 Jun
Friday, the 28th, was the last night of LudoBites 4.0. I don’t say this mildly, Ludo is without question the most interesting and exciting thing in the LA food scene. He dominates the Twitterazzi and has been written about and seen everywhere. The establishments like LA Times has made him a cover-story, my idol Ruth Reichl has given him a nod, and the food renegade The J Gold just can’t get enough, girls melt for him as a Top Chef Master contestant and all of LA loves their Ludo. We can talk about what makes him so appealing: the tattoos, the French accent, the fact that you make your reservations via Twitter but really what makes Ludo phenomenal is his imagination. The purpose of this new Mission Fruition project for me is to reach the elusive foodgasm and as we all know that is impossible without some foreplay. The key to foreplay is playing hard to get and LudoBites rules at this. His most awesome wife handles reservation via Twitter and they are booked within hours. As you probably know I am in the process of moving to SF so these last few weeks have been hitting up some famous LA spots that I have never tried. In the week of seeing Ludo I went to Animal and XIV, I am sorry waistline and wallet. A few Fridays ago was going to be a mellow eating day and then I was going to go crazy on Minty’s Gays and Dolls crawl in EaHoLA (my made up neighborhood name for Los Feliz/Silverlake). All I had was lentil soup for breakfast and was walking in to Mi Piace for a glass of wine and pizza with the Baron (yup, his family has Baron status and owns 80% of the Kosher wine market) when I got a DM on Twitter Kevin Eats saying he had an open spot at LudoBites at 6p. It was 2p then and I was well aware that it was the final Ludo night. The following day I was heading up north to SF to go apartment hunting and I knew this was an opportunity not to be missed. I responded “yes” with no hesitation and when he wrote back saying that we would be ordering the entire menu my order at this late lunch went from pizza to a side salad. I was beyond excited and moved around my whole schedule. Took a shower and rushed over to Gram and Papa’s for Ludo Bites. I was in such a fluster that I didn’t realize til Chinatown that I didn’t think of bringing a bottle of wine and of course Ludo is so cool and underground it is BYOB. I looked at the time and realized I should arrive first and think about walking across the street to get wine later. Gram and Papa’s isn’t in the best part of downtown and I was in a booty clinging skirt for the gay bars later but not appropriate for this hood. I was rattled, excited, nervous, and unsure of what this totally unplanned night held.

My table mates were already seated and there were 4 bottles of wine welcoming me. There were 5 of us, Kevin Eats, Epicuryan, Cookie Chomper, Food, Je T’Aime, and myself. They were wine armed and camera armed and I felt safe and able to relax. The first thing that was presented to us was a warm baguette. Everyone shot away and when it was my turn to snap, I said I had no interest in photographing bread and the table reminded me that this was Ludo Bread with Honey Lavender Butter and Smoked Lard. This was the last MF’n night of Ludo Bites 4.0 I better take pictures.

A few sips of wine later and the actualization that I was at the last night of LudoBites and probably wouldn’t be in LA for all of the future stints and I was happy. I let the plates be brought out and put in front of me. This was the lying there phase and it was fantastic. The food was gorgeous. And we didn’t even have to take time to think and order, we simply had it all coming to us. We got 11 appetizers, 5 main courses, and 2 desserts. Brace yourself. First up, was the Dorade Ceviche, Heirloom Tomato, Spring Onions, Lemon Honey Paste. This dish was, unfortunately, prettier than it was tasty. It probably would have worked better with more acid but dorade isn’t the tastiest of fish.

The next dish up had the texture of the most heavenly of dishes, it was cloud-like and delicious. I am not a huge fan of soft cheese, I like my cheese like I like my men. However, this cheese took brie to the next level and it is was as high as the sky. The Brie Chantilly, Honey Comb, Balsamic went together so fantastically. As mentioned, I have been dining very well lately and I have seen fresh honeycomb everywhere but it is almost always paired with blue cheese. Let me tell you, it goes so much better with this whipped brie.

Santa Barbara Prawn, Avocado, Passion Fruit, Cocktail Sauce was probably my least favorite of all of the dishes, but that was just based on my own personal food discrimination. I am neither a fan of cold shrimp or avocados. This dish started showing the Ludo creativity that I love but why did it have to be frozen avocado shavings? Every time I see my mom she always asks me, “have you finally come to your senses, do you NOW like avocado? Sadly the answer is no, but let’s just say that I loved the Corona granita that came a bit later.

Marinated King Salmon, Red Wine Vinaigrette, Crème Fraiche was the absolute prettiest dish. I snapped this one endlessly and I think it was around this time that our table got reprimanded by the chef and we were caught on TwitPic where a 1,000 people caught us in the act. Sorry Chef Ludo, but this dish was like the most beautiful watercolor and you were the artist. If I had to name the biggest food crime, it would be cooked salmon. Ludo gave this to me just how I like it: raw, pickled, and with cream. Oops sorry, I forgot, I am trying to no longer be uncouth.

Veal Tartar, Oysters, Almond Oil, Seaweed, Tonnato Sauce was a heavy dish with strong ocean tastes. One of the people at the the table didn’t get any veal in her bite and was unable to identify which menu item this was. I liked the veal tartar very much but it really played back up to the strong oyster and tonnato flavors.

The next dish up bothered some people at my table because it came across as a kind of fusion sushi that you would see done at a Wokano or something of the sort. It is not that big of a stretch because it was in a cone and because the words “spicy mayo” were used on the menu. However, Ludo’s Crispy Soft Shell Crab Cone, Spicy Mayo, Mango, Corona Granite dish was anything but amateur. This is where you see the true imagination of Ludo’s food. It is childlike but oh so sophisticated. The cold component is outside the cone and it has that perfect refreshing Corona taste. The cone was made of regular and black sesame seeds and filled with a fried soft shelled crab and the topping that you may expect on your cone was mango. I loved this dish. I was one of the few at the table who was at LudoBites 4.0 for the first time but apparently those numbers kept track of how many were served. Some of the people that went to the opening of LB 4.0 got single digits. On this closing night, I got lucky number 327! C’mon guy, we can talk numbers, we all shared the same dish….what number were you?

Foie Gras, Green Cabbage, Kimchi Consomme, Pickled Turnips, Sesame Oil Alright folks, I don’t want to blow my load too early but this was the dish. I only took one picture and giggled about how ugly it looked on my camera screen. But as any serious dater or eater knows, looks are deceiving. I will say that I did read earlier that day in The J Gold’s review that he loved this dish but the word kimchi in the title just made me shrug. I took a bite and knew that this dish was perfection. This was a perfect marriage between my culture, my palate, and my gourmand-ness. I have not really written very much yet about my dining companions but the one that invited me was Kevin Eats, who is probably best known for his infamous piece entitled, “Why are there so many Asian food bloggers?” Truth be said, if you like it or not that question comes up all the time, especially when I introduce people to this small incestuous little community. It is a reasonable question and at our table of 5 I was the only non-Asian and those are similar percentages to most blogger dinners I attend. I don’t mind at all and consider myself Asian in my heart. In fact, my next comment after hearing that question posed is, “If they are not Asian, then they are probably Jewish.” Asians and Jews are very culturally similar and you can draw many parallels in Kevin’s answer to that question. In fact, I have just as many memories making Chinese dumplings with my Jewish grandmother than I do making matzoh balls with her. This brings me to why I loved this dish so much. My grandma is no longer alive and one of the dishes that she made and I loved was stuffed cabbage. I have spent numerous hours looking for the perfect recipe online but I haven’t found it yet. Another thing I love is a good wonton soup and this had the exact same taste in the broth, probably from the vinegar, cabbage, and sesame oil. So not only did I have two strong comfort foods and flavors but then Ludo took this simpler comfort food to the next level and stuffed the cabbage with foie. The next level was reached and I was in heaven. For once, a whole table filled with food bloggers agreed that this was THE dish of the night.

For an encore, I bring you another dish that is rooted in comfort but kicked up to elegant fine dining. The Foie Gras Black Croque-Monsieur, Cherry-Amaretto Chutney was something that I really wanted to have during my two times at LudoBites 2.0 but both times it was sold out. I now can clearly see why. It is reminiscent of a childhood sandwich, perhaps a peanut butter and jelly. The bread is not white, it is black and dyed with squid ink. Instead of peanut butter you had a delicious and unctuous piece of foie gras, creamier and better than any butter. Rather than a plain jam you had a cherry-amaretto chutney that complemented the foie better than peanut butter goes with jelly.

The Ham Soup, Bread, Swiss Cheese, Radish, Cornichon, Guinness was reminiscent of something I had at LudoBites 2.0. In that older Ludo pop-up I had a cornichon, cantaloupe, and chorizo soup that I wasn’t that sure about. If there is one thing that I am sure about it is that I love cornichons. In fact, during a trip to the South of France I took a glass jar of cornichons back with me in my luggage. For the love of pickles, I risked all of my belongings ruined and plagued with the smell of pickle juice. I was happy that ingredient stayed. I went from one spoonful to many more saying “give me a second” as I was trying to gather and announce all of the tastes in my mouth. Not only was it a treasure hunt for tastes it was also a treasure hunt when someone discovered that there was bread with cheese on the bottom of the soup. It was another adventure and an all around fun dish.

One of my oldest friends in LA is Filipina and I remember her telling me long ago that as a kid she loved blood sausage but she never knew what it was. She simply called it chocolate and her parents gave it to her whenever she asked for chocolate. This seemed like the oddest confusion to me but after tasting the Boudin Noir Terrine, Apple Puree, Wasabi I have a much better understanding for the confusion. It is chocolaty and nutty, the apple and wasabi were nice and made this scary black square more appealing and gentle. I had a few bites but due to its rich characteristics I probably couldn’t eat more than that. Also, unlike my friend, I didn’t grow up with the dish and I know very well exactly what it is.

Alright, now we are on to main courses. The Squid “Carbonara”, Pancetta, Poached Egg (63°), Parmesan Snow, Chive Flowers was another dish that I heard about a lot on Twitter and the blogosphere. It sounded fantastic. However, I am a girl that loves her pasta so as fun of a a surprise ingredient the squid was I really wanted something nice and starchy to curb the heaviness of the parmesan.

Another thing I read prior to going to dinner that night was an article on how to eat your way to a tan. The next dish Monkfish, Baby Carrots, Carrot-Orange Coulis, Exotic Spices must have improved my coloring with all of those carrots and oranges. The flavors were all very sweet and took away from that beautiful piece of monkfish.

The next two dishes Braised Beef Cheeks, Escargot Red Wine Butter, Leek Salad, Roasted Eggplant and Rack of Lamb, Fresh Goat Cheese, Dried Bonito, Artichokes, Potato Mousseline, Mint I didn’t pay as much attention to. Ludo was at the table then and I was getting all of the requisite shots. I heard that Ludo 5.0 would be in July and probably still be in downtown because he loves it there. I also remember saying that I wanted an entire artichoke to myself and so I selfishly grabbed that and was less interested in the meat on the plate, after all, I had a hot piece of  (*refrain*) with a French accent talking to me. I also remember eating that cube item stupidly by itself. It was a reduction of the beef au jus and black currant. It was super salty and probably paired nicely with the meat but, well, I am an idiot.

It’s all about Ludo’s Fried Chicken and damn it’s good. I first had it at the LA Street Food Fest where I was volunteering. A friend was waiting in line for hours to get a couple of those golf ball size pieces of chicken and kindly gave me one. That day was infamous for long lines and a ton of people and I can tell you that chicken has never tasted so good. After a long full dinner where I was totally satisfied and reached a mission fruition on the 5th appetizer, I can tell you that his chicken is just as good. The meat is dark and tender and the the fried batter is sprinkled with rosemary and thyme so it tastes as good as t smells. On this night, it wasn’t just the chicken the dish it was Fried Chicken, Coconut Polenta, Grilled Baby Corn, Diablo Sauce. The coconut polenta and the grilled corn gave it a nice summer tropical vibe and the diablo sauce was a nice accompaniment but I like my “LFC” as is and without sauce. Look for the Ludo Fried Chicken Truck hitting the streets of LA this summer!

There were two desserts on the menu this night. Organic Strawberry, Vanilla Whipped Cream & Lemon Verbena-Meringue and Dark Chocolate Soufflé, Vanilla Whipped Cream, Hot Chocolate Cream. While Ludo is not typically known for his desserts I thought both were quite nice. The strawberry dessert had the surprise element of poprocks and reminded me of the stereotypical girl dessert and the chocolate souffle was decedent and the boy version. While I am sure that I probably shouldn’t admit this or say it in this post about a Michelin starred chef but I thought the two dessert were as cute as McDonald’s when they ask if you want a girl or a boy toy with your Happy Meal. Yes, I occasionally want a Happy Meal with boot-shaped chicken nuggets and sweet n sour sauce (you see that Mickey D’s fried chicken needs sauce, Ludo’s does not). Anyway, I totally mean this as a compliment, the whole meal was a sophisticated culinary wonderland that brought in key elements from my childhood and my comfort spots.

All in all, this was the most fantastic dinner. I loved the food and it is sad how much of fine dining doesn’t have that imagination that LudoBites possesses. I am excited about all of his projects and remember to follow him and his awesome wife on Twitter to discover everything that will be unfolding this summer. As I said, in the beginning, they are a huge part of what is making the LA food scene so exciting! Yes, I will soon be living in San Francisco but I am sure that whenever I come to visit I will make LudoBites and the LFC truck a top destination. Here are other reports on this meal from my dining companions that will keep you updated on all the new exciting LA food trends from Ludo to beyond:

Kevin Eats

food, je t’aime

Epicuryan

Cookie Chomper

Taste of the Nation LA 2010: Tasty & Fruitful

7 Jun

I am not sure about what I believe in but, without doubt, I know that I believe in synchronicity. I wrote in my UG and LA Goodbye post that you could see us, Josie and Carina, the OG UG girls at Taste of the Nation LA. However, then I had no idea how significant this event would be. For the last week, I have been up in Nor Cal apartment hunting and trying to get my new life in order. What I have really wanted to do more than anything is write on this site about all of the fantastic LA food that I have had in the last few weeks. I have been busy but on Friday night I finally completed and then accidentally deleted an entire post I wrote about the last night LudoBites 4.0. I was livid but had no time to fix it or rewrite it because I had to be in bed by 10:30P and out the door of my family’s house in Santa Cruz by 5:30A to make it to my TOTNLA volunteer duties back in LA. I was tired and after a very caffeinated Venti Chai and 44oz Diet Coke (which oddly enough was cheaper than the 24oz at the gas station) I was wide awake but with the need to pee every 20 minutes. I made it to the beautiful Media Park in Culver City just in time for my shift. I grabbed my volunteer shirt, went to the station, saw Josie and within minutes we were back to our old antics. We “worked” and, of course, began the day with the most healthy offering at the event…red velvet cupcakes from Sprinkles.

If you really want to know how bad I am, I went directly from those to a St. Germain Cocktail. It was my drink of the day and what I kept drinking even on into the after party.  Champagne, St. Germain, club soda, and a lemon peel was exactly what I needed on a sunny day after driving for 6.5 hours.

After some sugar, a drink, and the realization that I was no longer in a car with the need to pee, I was finally ready to delve into the food portion of the day. Just like last year, the food was beautiful, abundant and definitely did not disappoint. Some of the first dishes I had were actually my favorites and I don’t know if it was just me but I noticed a big crispy rice trend in many of the dishes and frozen adult slushies, both of which I loved immensely. The first dishes I tried were from a Culver City restaurant called K-Zo it was spicy tuna over crispy rice and then a spicy albacore roll. There was also a marinated albacore sashimi with radish and carrots that I loved. It was fresh, fatty, and oh so delicious!

Patina had a beautiful hamachi dish but I think it was a tie between K-Zo and XIV for the better sashimi.

Another common dish was meat and a starch or as Mattatouille said on Twitter, “Nice to see so many familiar faces at @TOTNLA. Food was good though too many beef/mashed potato the like dishes on a hot day.” Several  restaurants did it several different ways. Hatfields had short ribs over mashed potatoes with crispy rice, caramelized onions, and sea salt sprinkled on top. XIV had beef cheek with liquid corn on the cob. Tavern had a really nice piece of meat on a crostini with cheese on top. Lastly, there was the BLT Steak short rib tortelli that was another winner, it was delicate and well seasoned with fresh corn and mushrooms. Tavern was probably the most tender and delicious piece of meat, XIV had the most interesting side, and Hatfield’s was just a nice and solid dish. In fact it was really funny at the Hatfield’s tent because there was a huge line and the chef was thoughtful plating each dish an ingredient at a time. As soon as the meat was atop the mashed potatoes a guy in front of me in line was being polite and told me to take a plate. I said, “Thank you, but I don’t think he is done plating.” After we waited for the last three additions to be added, I happily took my plate first and this man in line with me looked very defeated. Thankfully this well put together dish cheered him up.

As previously mentioned, the other trend that I loved and supported were adult style slushies. They were refreshing on this hot day and alcohol is always a fantastic accompaniment to food. I had The Bazaar nitrogen Caipirinha and the cucumber adult slushie aka “Brain Freeze” from Marcel at Bar210

In attendance were some famous Top Chef Alum from Marcel to Michael Voltaggio. Michael did a live cooking demo for the event and I was unbelievably impressed by his dedication. He could have easily shown us an amazing and decedent dish to prepare but instead he really promoted the cause and did something much more meaningful. He made a healthy and delicious meal for 8 using $10 worth of ingredients. Also I never noticed it before but Marcel looks an awful lot like Ryan from The Office, although he is not this Michael’s crush. This Michael, Michael Voltaggio has another crush and that is ending childhood hunger. He was so impressed by TOTNLA and Strength that he got their famous apple logo tattooed on his calf, that my friends is dedication.

If you want to know about dedication, then I am the wrong person to ask as much as I was volunteering I was more interested in food. Josie and I had “Talent” on our name tags that wasn’t because we were the talent but rather we worked that station. It was our job to make sure the talent made it to  the stage and that the stage area was clean. The very funny Sklar brothers were the hosts and we offered to walk with one of them to hoard food for his wife and child who arrived late. While we were walking the tents, I ended up only getting food for myself. Side Note: the brothers had a funny bit about the TV show Hoarders and how they couldn’t delete any episodes of the show from their DVRs because they had so many memories of watching each of the episodes. Anyway here were some more of my favorites and even some Mission Fruition worthy dishes.

This one bite dish from Church & State totally allowed me to reach the elusive foodgasm. It was eggplant on the softest most delicate chickpea pancake. As soon as I took my first bite I reacted by saying “Baba Ghanoosh, that is good!” Another dish that I loved was no surprise, because I loved it last year as well. The miso ginger black cod in butter lettuce from Nobu West Hollywood is quite simply one of the greatest dishes ever. It is always perfect on hot days and Nobu has been doing this dish for years and way better than everyone else.

Another perfect dish that I loved was the Burmese melon salad from Susan Feniger’s Street. There were nuts, sesame seeds, fresh melon, and delicious coconut shavings that made this dish perfection. I love fruit and this dish brought me to fruition at first bite. Another sweet and seductive dish was the vanilla bean panna cotta from Mozza that came with fresh berries and a brittle. It was the creamiest panna cotta I have ever had and I loved that this dessert was not too sweet.

By far the most filling thing I ate was the hot dog from Fig. I had the one with pork belly and Fritos but I preferred the taco dog that Josie had with just about every taco topping smothering it. When we realized that we needed a picture of the two of us we each had a hot dog and I also had the lamb burger from Ford’s Filling Station (where I ended up last night at the unofficial after after party) in my hands. It was synchronicitic and something about yesterday just felt like old UG times.

The last Taste of the Nation LA event was an entirely different experience, for me, from the event this year. Both events had beautiful weather, delicious food, and both times I was overwhelmed by familiar faces and new tastes in my mouth. Last year, Uncouth Gourmands was just starting to make a name for itself and everything was exciting and new. I met new people, famous chefs, and reached multiple mission fruitions in my mouth. This year I arrived and it was more about closure. Yes, the food was fantastic and it was a good cause. But I really wanted to see old and new friends and say goodbye before I make my move. I rushed for that aspect of the event rather than just the food. I really feel that in going yesterday it made me more ready and able to move on. I have had a ton of amazing LA restaurants experiences, many of the restaurants were featured at this event, in the last few weeks to share with you and perhaps I needed this closure to start the ball rolling on this new site, more blogging, and my new life. I have already proved that I will drive down from NorCal in the wee AM morning hours and trust me a move to SF will not stop me from attending Taste of the Nation LA 2011…this is THE food event of the year! Just to tie it all together and prove that life really is synchronistic as I was downloading photos of the event on iPhoto I hit the Last 12 Months folder and this picture of Josie and I was taken exactly one year ago yesterday. We are still girls eating hot dogs but we are eating our own dogs and heading in two different directions.

Going from LA and UG to SF: My Goodbye

1 Jun

For the last two years, Uncouth Gourmands has been my life. For the last year and a half, I have shared my Uncouth Gourmand adventures with you. Josie and I were inseparable and I still cannot go to any event in LA without people asking where my other half or partner is. It is  a role that I have loved because I have met so many great people in the food, restaurant, PR, blogosphere and Twitterazzi worlds. I have lived in LA for the last 6 years, long enough for me to attend both college and grad school and really only since my time as a UG did this monstrosity of a city, LA, feel like a home to me. I felt as though I knew all 88 cities and the food and the culture belonged to me. However, my problem is that I love getting lost and the idea of being a Foursquare Mayor of anywhere frightens me. I want to explore something new and am moving on to a new chapter. There are three people in the food world that I have met or digitally talked to that have greatly changed my direction in the last few months. They are my idols and I am going to share what I learned from them and how they shaped my new San Francisco life.

Photo Credit to NY Magazine

1. Gael Greene is a woman who I greatly admire. At one point, Josie and I were getting a comic book made called “The Insatiables” and it wasn’t til a few months later that I realized that Gael Greene already authored a book called “Insatiable.” She embraced her sexuality along with her insatiable appetite for food. As someone who is a die-hard feminist and foodie, I appreciate her on a very personal level. Her chapter on having sex with Elvis Presley in the 50’s was the most exciting thing I have ever read. While all of the girl’s were down below on the street level of his hotel screaming his name she was actually getting him although she has a better memory of the exact sandwich she ordered him after the deed. I remember writing something to her on Twitter saying how much I admire her and Ruth Reichl and she responded to me saying, “Perhaps you are becoming a more couth gourmand.” I didn’t believe it then but it is true. The way Josie and I branded this company was she was the more uncouth and I was the more gourmand one. I am champagne and Josie is beer. I really want to learn more about the food and shed some of my uncouth ways. I will probably always sit with my leg up at any restaurant and not hold a knife and fork correctly but I want to learn wine and cooking and the process. That is where my new interest lies.

2. Thomas Keller is considered one of the best chefs in this country and when I met him a few months ago at a book signing he wrote something very profound on the inscription. I am sure he wrote this to everyone but this had particular resonance with me. It IS all about family. My family is small and exceptionally tight and for the last 6 years I have lived away from them. I always stayed in the same state but I want to be closer to my Santa Cruz roots and my family tree branches. San Francisco is a 70 mile drive to my mom’s home in Santa Cruz where my 9 year old brother and my 90 year old grandfather are and I want to be near both of those gentlemen and my mama. I think my friend Hanh said it best, “You will never regret a decision that favors on the side of family”

3. Ruth Reichl: I met Ruth at a celebration for Gourmet Magazine in January and I really felt as though she changed my life. I come from a family of writers and was always under the impression that I wanted something much more serious for my life. After all, I just got an MBA and business was my form of rebelling. I learned from her that writing, even writing about food, is extremely serious and she really made me want to be a much better food writer. I realized at this point that writing for the rest of my life would make me the happiest person in the world. Prior to this, I used writing more as a means to promote the brand that was Uncouth Gourmands. I wanted to head a lifestyle brand and, in order for people to understand that lifestyle, I shared my life. This became my favorite part of UG and through this I ended up finding my voice and what is that I want to do. In April, I headed up north to see my family and spend some time in San Francisco. The first night of this trip, my mom bought me Garlic & Sapphires after I heard from Gastronomyblog and Glutser that it changed their lives. I devoured the book by Ruth Reichl during the trip and while driving into San Francisco I did that trick that I sometimes do on dates where I say “Please don’t let me fall in love. Please don’t let me fall in love” I tend to have some restraint on dates but on this trip I fell in love. I knew driving back to LA that I would end up moving to SF and even wrote a post entitled, “I left my footprint in San Francisco” What I learned from Ruth and her book is that there is a certain inspiration that can only come when you are discovering a new city. She was from NYC but after years in LA she was in no rush to return. LA is cozy and beautiful and at one point in the book she describes it as the silk coffin because it is hard to escape. However, rediscovering NYC provided her with some great writing and especially when you write about restaurants half the fun is the first second you walk in to a new place and your first bite.

It’s official, sometime this month I will be moving to San Francisco and I will be leaving UG behind. I will always be an Uncouth Gourmand, after all I added the “Gourmand” part to the name but I don’t know how well I fit the brand anymore. It is LA based and that is where the UG Global Headquarters is and where the “magic” happens. Have no fear, Josie and I are still friends but our identities aren’t as enmeshed as they once were. People change, businesses grow, and as Josie and I (perpetual singletons) know all too well relationships don’t end up being what you imagine them to be in the beginning. The picture above was us volunteering at our favorite LA food event, Taste of the Nation LA, and we will be doing it again this year. It features some of the best food, the who’s who of the LA food world, and it all goes to help a great cause. If you are sad about this news and wanna see the OG UG girls together again then buy your tickets ASAP and we will see you on Sunday! If you can’t make it you can still find Josie on @UncouthGourmand and you can follow me @CarinaOst on Twitter.

Thank you all for everything and I hope to see you in SF or in my second home LA. Spork on, Uncouthies!

Boiling Crab: My Favorite Restaurant EVAH

28 Feb

B.C. is an abbreviation that to most stands for Before Christ. I have always been self-involved and have always used it to stand for “Before Carina.” In fact, whenever I am with a guy that I am dating I am normally am forced to ask, “B.C?” To make sure he isn’t talking about another girl after he has already met me. I will blame my youth on being so self-involved. I have always assumed that only when I have kids will I be truly humbled, as I have never been a strong believer in g-d. So at some point in the future I have thought that B.C. would stand for Before Children.  Life is a funny thing and B.C. has ended up taking on the abbreviation of something that I am a million times in awe of something that truly brings me to my knees. B.C. now refers to my favorite restaurant in the world, Boiling Crab. Everything about this place is brilliant and it has the richest story. It started in Texas with a Vietnamese-American husband and wife began serving Cajun food up in a town with only 2,000 people. Since that humble beginning in 2003 they now live in OC and have 5 location including my closest one in Alhambra and one only miles from where I was born in San Jose, CA. It is one of those amazing American stories that brings together love, different states, different cuisines, and creates something that is truly delicious.

I have been to Boiling Crab several times and every time the food is perfect and exactly what I expect it to be. If it was up to me I’d be going every week or so but alas my other UG 1/2 can’t eat shellfish and despite making it a New Years resolution every year I still can’t eat alone. Therefore, Boiling Crab is always a place that I have to wait to have either dates or friends to go with me. A month ago I was having lunch at C & S with Minty and her friend and I got the obligatory, “What’s your favorite restaurant?” question. I, of course, answered that it was B.C. Her friend had an upcoming birthday and was interested in trying it. I invited myself to the b-day dinner and we were joined by the climbing couple (CliminChiro and ClimbingDancer) that also share a B.C. love. B.C. always has a line and a strict rule that you can’t be seated unless everyone in the party is present. You can imagine how bad I felt being the last one to arrive, I may have been only 6 minutes late but when you walk in to this place and think about what you will soon be devouring it feels like a lifetime. I have been through most of the menu and now know exactly what to order. The beauty of this group is that they have also done the same search and we are all now on the exact same path. A little over a pound of shrimp a person whole sha-bang style, throw in some corn on the cob, and add sausage slices. If you are still hungry grab some fresh oysters and sweet potato fries. This group totally knew my drill and I was pleased to introduce them to the $3.00 apple/pear hard ciders that always complement the meal.

So what makes B.C. my favorite restaurant? Let me try to explain, in life I am a fairly lazy person. I like drive-thrus and being waited on and stomp my feet at establishments where I have to stand up to order and yet when it comes to eating my food I like to be involved. The more tactile the better. Crab and artichokes are probably my top two foods and I love picking at and eating it. Also, I am a food tearer (or terror) as I break apart pieces of any sandwich, burger, or pizza I eat and I constantly squish all my fries in search for a limp one (What can I say..I like my fries like I like my men. Or as VeronicainLA told me last night there is some Freudian thing about me liking limp fries) Anyway, this restaurant gives you no utensils, just a roll of paper towels, and a bib. They put the perfectly seasoned bag in front of you and you get to go to town. The whole sha-bang brings together the cajun, lemon pepper, and garlic butter seasonings all in to one and as you rip off your shrimps exterior you re-dip and enjoy. I have had all the shellfish at B.C. from crab to crawfish (or as I like to call it, lobster for poor and small people) but the work to reward ratio of the shrimp can simply not be matched. On this night we, 5 people, had 6lbs of shrimp, oysters, crab for the birthday girl and a lot of fun.

There are certain things that I know about B.C. First, you never wear cute clothes and always accept the bib. Two, at no point in the eating process should you touch your eyes or any sensitive area (read: wash hands before going to the bathroom). Three, the night after you go to Boiling Crab you will have a hard time sleeping because you won’t be able to stop sniffing your hands which smell like heaven and you will wake up dying of thirst from all the salt and not enough water. As much as I consider myself an expert, the other night I learned a great tip from those that are also part of the B.C. religion. I always end up going through a roll of paper towels but this time I was told by my table mates to not even try to clean off your hands till the end and to ask for lemon slices to squeeze on your hands before washing them. Great advice! Anyway, now you know about my favorite restaurant. I have probably already told you about this in person or on the blog but this is my first time with photographic evidence since I always dig in as soon as the food arrives and don’t let my filthy hands touch an expensive camera. Let me know if you’d like to try B.C. and I will be happy to be your religious teacher and come along for the ride. Also how could you not love a restaurant that has this as their dream:

Their dream – that The Boiling Crab have the “best tail in town” and be the biggest ass-pinching, head sucking venue, this side of Mississippi – has become a reality

The Boiling Crab
Cusine: Seafood, Cajun
Neighborhood: Alhambra
742 W Valley Boulevard
Alhambra, CA 91803
(626) 576-9368

Jewtina: Savoring My Culinary Roots

24 Nov

My mom is Jewish and my dad’s Salvadorean, that combo makes me a Jewtina. Thankfully, there is a clothing line for people like me but there isn’t a special restaurant that combines the two cuisines. Fortunately, this last week I had the best Jewish deli sandwich of my life and some great Salvadorean food.

There are some iconic LA restaurants that I am simply in no rush to try. For instance, it took me 5 years to try a Father’s Office burger. The reason for my hesitation is normally anticipated and then actual disappointment. That is not the case with Langer’s Deli. I have wanted to go for the last 5 years but their hours, never open past 4pm and closed on Sundays, have been a barrier for me. When Josie called and said that she was so sorry she missed roller disco and asked how she could make it up to me, I immediately had a resolution. I had to get my car serviced and suggested that she pick me up at Toyota and that we grab lunch at Langer’s. She was totally game and we arrived with rather large appetites. The location of Langer’s, in the heart of MacArthur Park, brings to mind smells of urine and memories of purchasing my first fake ID. We are tough girls and walked in to a packed lunch crowd. The hostess took down my name and said it would be a 20 minute wait. I spotted a seat at the counter and there was a second that appeared to be opening up quickly. A nice Jewish man was in the middle of the two empty seats offered to scoot down for us. He ended up chatting with the cute younger woman, soon to be seatmate, all about her upcoming wedding. Josie and I were thrilled and I told her that all of our Twitter friends said we must stick to the Number 19. We didn’t stray. Josie, not a huge rye fan, asked for sourdough and we decided to split an order of fries. The waitress was quick talking and clearly a New Yorker. When Josie asked me if we needed to clarify to the waitress about the order, since she didn’t write anything down, I stopped her. I could tell this woman has been doing this for years and had the order perfect and with no confusion. I was correct.

The number 19 has thick pieces of pastrami, swiss cheese, coleslaw, and russian dressing. In the words of Joe Jackson, “Nineteen Forever!” It was so OMG! Anyone that knows me knows that I am a huge bread snob and this rye was fresh and perfect. I think Josie ended up regretting her sourdough choice. I would normally be the quintessential Jew and complain about paying nearly $14 for a sandwich, but not here. It was so worth it. Those complaints can be saved for the always disappointing and overpriced Jerry’s Deli. I do not necessarily heart New York but I do love a good NYC deli where people come from all walks of life and chat over a good sandwich. That is what happened at Langer’s and it was all delectable! If you live in LA and have not been, this is a place that is not to be missed.

Josie and I share some Salvadorean blood but rarely do we eat the food together. We are far more likely to head to Highland Park together for huaraches and tacos or to San Gabriel for Chinese food (the other food of the Jewish people) than to seek out some pupusas. Although, we were asked at one point if we like to bump pupusas together. It’s on tape, in case you don’t believe us. Anyway, Josie is now on her 11th iPhone and while she was at the Apple store, or as she like to call it the home of her saviors, I handed her my BlackBerry (I am only on my 2nd) and told her to use the Yelp app and find us somewhere for dinner. She chose La Caravana, which is pretty far up Lake in Pasadena, nearly at the Altadena border. I agreed but walked in with very low expectations. After my first sip of the ensalada, a fresh fruit drink, I was sold. Never have I had such a refreshingly delicious beverage. As soon as I saw the menu I knew that I needed the Plato Tipico Loco, which translates to the typical crazy plate. We are Uncouth Gourmands how could we not order that? It came with your choice of pupusa, a sweet corn tamale, fried yucca, plantain, mixed rice and beans, a slice of queso fresco, and sour cream. I went with the chicken and cheese pupusa and Josie was torn between the zucchini and cheese and the loroco. Despite the vast amount of food, she ordered both. All the food was delicious and the plate was only ten dollars, which is a good deal considering an individual pupusa is $3. I know that it isn’t that much but I have a hard time justifying more than a $1.50 for a taco and more than $2.50 for a pupusa. All of the food was superb and Josie and I were screaming at each other to try this or try that. We had identical plates but that didn’t stop us from sharing.

Whatever your cultural background may be, might I suggest that you partake in gobbling its culinary roots. You will feel proud, satiated, and it is a good thing to be on the hunt for. Everyone loves finding the “Best” something and it might as well be something that your ancestors have loved and enjoyed.