Sunday, October 31, 2010

Sweet Iron Waffles

I used Yelp for the majority of my Seattle eats for this trip, but I also turned to other bloggers.  Namely, The Gastronomer, is a bit of a world traveler and she does a great job documenting all her eats throughout her travels.  Sweet Iron Waffles happened to be the subject of one of her posts.  I think she is a Liège waffle fan.  Liège waffle you ask?  A Liège waffle is a "richer, denser, sweeter, and chewier features chunks of pearl sugar, which caramelizes on the outside of the waffle when baked."

They had many different flavors, but I decided to go with the classic to really get a good taste of a pure Liège waffle.  I will have to say that I was somewhat disappointed.  I think my expectations were just too high because, really, the waffle was served hot off the griddle, soft with a delicate chew and just a hint of sweet.  I could see why people love the waffles but I needed more.  I think I should have gotten a waffle with toppings.  Also there was some distracting flavor on the waffle, I think from the grease they use on the griddle.  I tasted/smelled something glue like?

If you love a Liège waffle then this seems the place to have them in Seattle.  I think I'll keep trying the popular waffle places.  I'm sure I'm bound to find one I like.   How can I resist sweet fluffy carbs??

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Friday, October 29, 2010

I Want Mee Sum Pastry!

Get it??  I usually don't get lame or corny on the blog, but I could not resist with that title.  Today I just saw a Chinese restaurant called Hung Far Low.  I was cracking up.  Sometimes you wonder if the naming is a deliberate process.  Dumpling Man says Mee Sum doesn't mean anything in Chinese, so who knows.  But yeah, a Chinese bakery specializing in char siu bao smack in the middle of touristy Seattle?  It can't be all that good.  After reading some of the reviews on Yelp, some people said that the baos in LA and SF are much better.  So I wasn't that interested in trying baos pandering to the tastebuds of the American masses.  But since Dumpling Man already tried Pike Place Chowder I told him to go get some baos while I waited in line for soup.

It's strange, but they call their goods "hom bow" instead of bao.  Dumpling Man put on his best Chinese face and asked why they were called "hom bow" but the lady working the counter was not so interested in conversing with her fellow brethren.  She just mumbled something like hom bows are the same thing.  They have many varieties including the traditional bbq pork, chicken, beef curry.  They also have the steamed versions and potstickers and eggrolls.

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Thursday, October 28, 2010

Pike Place Chowder

If you think about Seattle, 2 things probably come to mind: endless rain and GREAT food.  When we decided to make a weekend trip to Seattle, I immediately started looking up places to eat.  What is good travel without good food?  That's my philosophy anyways.  I'll probably never visit a place for the sole reason of visiting unless its got something good too eat.

Pike Place Market has to be one of the main tourist attractions in Seattle.  I don't know why it's so famous exactly because it seems like any other farmer's market, fresh produce, meat, seafood, handmade goods, and ready made eats.  Maybe its the fish tossing?  Missed any of that action.  Pike Place Chowder happens to be a great little attraction in the market for its award winning chowder and crab roll.

Instead of going with just the famous New England clam chowder, I opted for the 4 chowder sampler.  Four  5 oz cups of any 4 chowders of your choosing for $10.95.   I went with all the chowders except the salmon chowder, and swapped it out for the seafood bisque instead.  All of the soups were good but nothing to write home about it.  They certainly hit the spot on the cold rainy day we were having.

Southwestern Chicken & Corn Chowder grilled chicken, corn, assorted vegetables, creamy southwestern style broth
Creamy with a great grilled chicken flavor, accented by sweet kernels of corn in every bite. 

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Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Davis Street Tavern

I haven't had a bad dining experience in Portland.  I wouldn't go so far as to say that Portland is a "total foodie town" but it's fair to say it does well for itself.  It's size and limited diversity will always be the limiting factor in its rise to greatness like the cities of LA, SF, and NYC.  I think there are probably more restaurants out there that are solid, but it doesn't seem like a lot of people Yelp about it enough.  So that also limits my ability to come across the good finds.

Davis Street Tavern is a well reviewed good little find in Portland.  Solid New American cuisine that's not too fancy, but probably pricier than most would be willing to shell out.  Nice, spacious, and pretty happening for a Friday night with a live bluesy rock band.   Dumpling Man opted for the 5 course tasting menu at $48 while I choose some things a la carte.

Kunamoto Oyster fresh cucumber, pickled shallot, rainbow trout roe *tasting menu*
I've never quite acquired the love for oysters.  It's just one of those things that taste too much like the ocean for my liking.  But I certainly can appreciate people's love for this raw shellfish.  In fact, I've had a wonderful oyster or two and they were fresh, perfectly chilled, briney, and always highlighted by some wonderful flavors.  This version for instance had the pickled shallots for that contrasting flavor and crunchy texture also enhanced by the cucumbers.  

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Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Red Onion

It's official, I LOVE Thai food.  I love the harmonious interplay of bold flavors: sour, sweet, spicy, salty.  It's probably the food I crave the most when I've gone a period of time without it.  It's a good thing Dumpling Man also likes Thai food, but his version of Thai food is limited to Thai curries and pad se ew.  Anything beyond those staple dishes is all on me, meaning I'm the only one who's gonna eat it.  That is why I jump at any opportunity to eat Thai food with other larger groups of people so I can try other Thai dishes I'm sure I will also love.  Alas, this rarely happens, so I'm stucking eating the same things.  It's not really all that bad because I always leave a Thai restaurant satisfied.

I was worried that Portland would be lacking in the Asian food.  While I have been underwhelmed by the dim sum, the Thai food has well exceeded my expectations.  I would easily say the Thai food here is better than any Thai food you could find in LA, excluding the Hollywood area where Thai Town thrives. 

Tom Mamuang & Pla Trout Tod Krob shredded green mango, carrot, mint, cilantro, cashew nut, crispy rainbow trout, sweet spicy lime juice
I will not belabor the point I've made before about my love for Thai salads.  This was an interesting variation with the addition of crispy trout as the protein.   The shredded mango and carrots were not overly sour or sweet.  They took up the dressing without imparting too much of their own strong flavors, like a really really sour green mango can.  The dish was of course brightened up with the use of mint and cilantro.  It was all rounded out with the earthy soft flavors of cashews sprinkled throughout.  I can't complain about this salad.

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Monday, October 25, 2010

Built to Grill

Another trip to Portland would not be complete without more visits to the Portland food carts.  I ventured out to the 3rd & Stark food carts which are about 10 blocks away from where I'm staying.  I didn't go here last time because my little delicate LA feet thought it was too far to walk.  I manned up and went trekking for good eats.  After a quick walk, maybe 10 minutes, I arrived to another block teeming with food carts.  I had to try Built to Grill, the only food cart rated on yelp with 5 stars!

You'd think Built To Grill specialized in burgers or meat of some sort with a name like that.  Stand corrected, because Buil to Grill is all about Italian, pastas and paninis.

The downside of the majority of the food carts are the limited hours.  They target the working lunch crowd, so if you happen not to work in the area then its probable that you'll never get to experience the wonders of the food carts.  Lucky for me, I have all the time in the world when I'm here in Portland.  The only limiting factor is the size of my stomach and the fact I'm usually going by myself so I can't order that much food.  Or can I?

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Whiskey Soda Lounge

I think Portland has a lot of Vietnamese and Thai people.  I could be wrong, but that is just my initial assessment just based on the type of Asian eating establishments.  There just seems to be a lot more good Vietnamese and Thai places.  Ironically, the most popular Thai restaurant happens to be owned and operated by a white guy.  What does a white guy know about Thai food?  How authentic could this food be?  People wait 1-2 hours just to be seated at Pok Pok Restaurant.   Andy Ricker even opened up a bar across the street, The Whiskey Soda Lounge, to deal with the overflow.  It offers many of the same dishes, including the famous chicken wings.

Ike's Vietnamese Fish Sauce Wings
Can you say "crack wings"?  Holy Jesus!  These wings are DELICIOUS!  DELECTABLE!  FANTASTIC!  WONDERFUL!   They really pack a punch of flavor with a strong salty sweet tang from a blend of fish sauce, sugar, lime, garlic, chillies.  They were served hot and crispy from the fryer, with a golden crusty layer of caramelized sugar from the savory marinade.  I actually found the recipe online so will one day attempt to make them.  If you make just one trip to Portland and eat only one thing, I suggest you make it these wings!  BEST WINGS EVER!

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Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Kobawoo House

Since we had such a gay ole time at K-Zo, our gang of 3 (Me, Lo-Ma Linda, and Bighead Talksalot) decided to make another dining trip.   It was my chance to show Lo-Ma Linda that there is more to Korean food than just tofu and bbq.   It was Bighead's chance to eat something more than tofu and bbq.  After listing off all the Korean food I know that did not consist of the aforementioned foods, we decided on Kobawoo House.  I know of no other restaurant in Ktown that is as popular as Kobawoo is for bossam.  Ssam literally means "wrapped" and refers to a dish where meat (specifically pork at Kobawoo) is wrapped in leafy vegetables traditionally.  At Kobawoo, pork is taken to a whole new level.

First, the banchan...

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Monday, October 18, 2010

K-ZO (DineLA)

My next DineLA adventure was inspired by His Majesty, King Arthur.  He spoke great things about Chef Keizo and his extraordinary sushi skills.  Too bad King Arthur wasn't around this time to foot the bill to his pharm rep buddies.  Lucky for us, the DineLA menu offered 3 courses at $44, which actually still  amounts to a significant amount of $$ after tax, tip, and drinks.   As long as the food isn't atrocious and the portions bitesize and I am dining in good company, you won't find me bitching and moaning at the end of the night.

Bouillabaisse seafood soup, sashimi grade scallop, green mussels, shrimp, white fish, salmon
I was expecting something more exciting from this dish.  It was served as bowl with the seafood, and the broth was served table side out of a giant teapot.  The presentation was a step from the ordinary, but the soup splashed a bit and was on the tepid side.  And the seafood?  Well don't they look sad and lonely?  One shrimp.  One clam.  One mussel.  One white fish.  One salmon.  The broth didn't taste as authentically French as proclaimed.  I tasted a hint of soy sauce?  It did have a really rich deep flavor, but nothing that knocked my socks off.

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Thursday, October 14, 2010

The Water Grill (DineLA)

DineLA descended upon the hungry citizens of Los Angeles last week.  For $26/$34/$44 (depending on where you dine), you are offered a pre fixe dinner menu from a wide variety of restaurants throughout LA.  My previous experience with DineLA has been really hit and miss.  Locanda Veneta was superb, but Craft was stinkin'!.  Sometimes Dine LA may not be reflective of a restaurant's true quality because you may not necessarily be offered the best things off the menu or the restaurant gets lazy and does a half ass job (ie Craft).  So I made reservations at various restaurants hoping for the best, but not surprised if I got something average.

The Water Grill seems like a restaurant that has been around for ages.  As you could imagine, a well established restaurant serving more traditional American cuisine doesn't generate much buzz in the food community.  I was hoping the food would quell any doubts I had about dining at a place nobody talks about.   Besides, Amanda works here, and I was very much impressed by her sous chef skills.

Amuse Bouche spicy tuna
Served on ice cold spoons, the amuse was a singularly harmonious bite of perfectly brunioused accoutrements and tuna wrapped in a thin cucumber slice.  It was refreshing and clean with well balanced light flavors.

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Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Nem Nuong Khang Hoa

The Vietnamese spring rolls usually brings to mind a rice paper roll filled with rice noodles, lettuce and aromatics, and pork and shrimp slices to be dipped in a peanut sauce.  My family never ate this very much.  I don't know why.  In recent years we've become fans of nem nuong cuon, or grilled pork spring rolls.  I feel like Brodard, in Westminster, popularized this to the masses.  If you think Brodard is da bomb then you need to try Khanh Hoa because it is da shit.  I think the differences are probably subtle and if you don't eat this a lot you probably will not be able to tell the difference.

Nem Nuong Cuon (Grilled Pork Spring Rolls) grilled pork, lettuce, mint, cilantro, perilla, cucumber, deep fried egg roll wrapper
The key to a good roll is good meat.  Here, the meat tastes very meaty and is perfectly seasoned with the right balance of salt and sweet.  The reason why half the restaurants in Westminster suck is because they are heavy handed with the sugar.  That is my hugest pet peeve.  But here, they do the meat right.  The grilled pork is always served warm too, which makes each bite that much more succulent and tasty.  At Brodard, the meat tastes just a tad bit overprocessed and artificial.  Here, you know what you're eating.  Don't ask me what the sauce is made up of.  I can never figure it out nor can I really detect any strong flavors.  At best its slightly sweet and chunky, from what?  I don't know.

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Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Test Kitchen: Marcel Vigneron

I'm a groupie through and through.  I freak out when I see a celebrity of any caliber, from the A list to the D list.  I'm scream.  I point.  I gawk.  Then I hide into the farthest corners of my shyness.   I will not approach them.  I will not talk to them.  I will dart my eyes away if they there is any hint of potential eye contact.  Sadly, this holds true for even reality TV stars, who are at best C list celebrities, but are probably more like a solid D.   Celebrity chefs are no exception, if not a large focus of my undeserved attention. 

Marcel Vigneron, being the runner up of Top Chef Season 2, was the main draw for my visit to Test Kitchen this time around.  When I walked into the restaurant and laid eyes on that giant mane of hair from scalp to chin, I became especially effusive with girlish immaturity.  Just as quick as the inane giddiness washed upon me, compelling me to snap photos of Marcel, did the feelings of embarassment soon follow, quelling the stalkarazzi in me.  I did manage to get one good photo before the restraint of my sheepish nature kicked in.

Marcel fared quite well on Top Chef.  He seemed like a young, but truly talented and innovative gastronomist.  I was eager to taste his culinary creations.

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Monday, October 11, 2010

The Bazaar

Maybe it's just me, but I feel like food is like the new "it" thing.  By that, I mean food seems to be on everyone's minds.  Whether it's talking about favorite foods, eating at the best new restaurants, or checking out foodie events.  Food is everywhere!  Dumpling Man voiced a similar sentiment.   Maybe food has always been "in" and I'm just coming late to the party.   Maybe this is just a natural process of getting older, appreciating fine dining and having a bit more cash to spend on it.

In any case, you'll need a lot of all of that (especially the cash) to dine at The Bazaar.   It's one of those places that has been the talk of the LA foodie scene since its opening in 2008.  Most people rave about it, but I have run into a few non believers.  One thing, that I think most people would agree on is that the restaurant itself is beautiful.  It is in the SLS hotel, which is about as trendy, hipster, and "LA" as it gets.   The crowd ranges from Hollywood beauties to wannabe hipsters to flaming douchebags.   Unlike most other trendy LA eateries, The Bazaar actually has some credibility rooted in its famous executive chef, Jose Andres.

The H.o.P. descended upon The Bazaar for Smooth Obturator's birthday.   To make sure no member of the H.o.P. went hungry, we made sure to order multiples of many of the dishes since the restaurant offers tapas style dining.

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Thursday, October 7, 2010


What is a "shill"?  Wikipedia describes a shill as a "person who is paid to help another person or organization to sell goods or services. The shill pretends to have no association with the seller/group and gives onlookers the impression that he or she is an enthusiastic independent customer."   King Arthur (not the fabled one from the stories and movies) may be considered the king of shills with his support of many a pharmaceutical company or two.   Lucky for me, I have fallen into the good graces of His Majesty.  And when a king looks favorably upon you, you reap the rewards of his bounty.  Bounty, of course, being fine dining with free flowing libations.

Melisse was just the start of it all, with Patina being the continuation of what I hope to be a fruitful foodie harvest this year.  I dined with King Arthur and his loyal subjects, Wontuan, The Communist, Soprano Man, Tofu, and a smattering of the king's groupies from The View (not the morning television show).  

The wine was divine...

...the cocktails, ambrosial.

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Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Carnevino @ Palazzo

I've become a BIG fan of Mario Batali since trying Osteria Mozza.  So after hearing we would be going to Carnevino during Triple F's bachelorette party in Vegas, I was pretty excited.  Eating out in Las Vegas always brings much anticipation and excitement.  I can't think of any other city, besides NYC, that has such a concentration of fine dining establishments from so many well renowned chefs.  One day, I hope to work my way up to a night at Joel Robuchon, but a Mario Batali restaurant is more than enough for now.

Carnevino is an Italian steakhouse created from the culinary minds of Mario Batali and his partner Joe Bastianich.  Granted Batali does not really cook at all his restaurants, I was still expecting great things.  Nobody has ever seemed to convey any sort of disappointment after dining at one of his outposts.  It seems like he, unlike many other chefs that slap their name on various restaurants across the country (I'm looking at you, Michael Mina), has been able to maintain the quality and integrity of food while bringing fame and glory to his name and furthering the brand.

Amuse Bouche
These were some cheesy bread balls, served piping hot.  They had a slight crunch to the exterior which revealed a slightly chewy and cheesy texture within.  I'm not sure what cheese was used, but it was a little bit too salty. 

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Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Spago @ Caesar's Palace

I remember when California Pizza Kitchen first opened up near my house when I was in high school.  It was a wildly popular restaurant back then.  It took traditional restaurant items such as salad, pizza, and pasta and transformed them into hip trendy eats with a "California" twist.  How do you define "California Cuisine"?  Wikipedia says California cuisine is "marked by an interest in 'fusion' -- integrating disparate cooking styles and ingredients."  I think BBQ chicken pizza certainly qualifies as "fusion."  Wolfgang Puck is considered one of the pioneers of "fusion" cuisine.  He is known for his Euro-Asian flare on food, as well as his smurf like qualities

I have long since moved beyond the novelty of "fusion" cuisine, instead preferring more authenticity and innovation than the different ways to make Asian food not taste very Asian.   I think it took me a while to get here, because only after having Spago's did I realize where I used to be with regard to my food preferences. 

Bread Basket focaccia bread, herb parmesan flatbread, rustic italian bread
The focaccia was doughy and soft.  There were bits of caramelized onions on some pieces.  I loved it.  The flatbread was also very addicting.  Light, but intensely cheesy.  You could keep munching and not realize that you just went through a whole baskets' worth.

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Monday, October 4, 2010

Ondal 2

You're probably thinking, how's Ondal 1?  That is a question I have no answer, but I would guess it's probably closer to Ktown than this place.  Yes folks, this very KOREAN restaurant is not really located in the general vicinity of Koreatown.   There's a lot of Hispanic businesses around.  In any case, the place was filled with Koreans, so we knew it had to be good.  It's a place many have been wanting to try, but requires bigger parties.  Ondal 2 is known for their spicy crab soup.  When you walk into the restaurant, you know for sure that there is definitely some seafood cooking.  The air is rich with that indescribable delicious ocean smell.  Hates Asian Food, The Communist, Soprano Man, Buff Bear, and myself gathered for some seafood spicy soup goodness.


Pan Chan
All pretty standard...

...but this was my favorite.

Tofu spicy sauce
We loved how the tofu still retained the shape of the container from which it came, like a plastic tube.  It was silky smooth and deliciously seasoned with the spicy sauce.

Raw Crab
I don't see this dish too often at many Korean restaurants.  I've only had it at So Kong Dong, but I never like it much there.  Here, it was ok.  Maybe my taste for Korean things is just growing.

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