Monday, July 28, 2014


It's been a while since the Bears joined forces to eat our way through LA.  Many things have changed since our days as "overworked and underpaid" drones.  Some of us are now "appropriately paid," while others, sadly, are still "underpaid" (Luau Bear who I'm going to rename Digs-Thru-Poop Bear and Panda Bear).  But the "underpaid" ones got smart and married their sugar mammas (Farm Bear and Little Bear who will be renamed Fancy Nails Bear).  And some things never change.  Buff Bear is still buff as ever, so obviously his name isn't changing.  One thing is true for all of us though, we are busier than ever, so coordinating all of our schedules to even get together for dinner isn't always easy.  Heck, I don't even live close to the majority of these guys, but I will trek anywhere for good friends and good food.  While Gusto wasn't our first choice, we were pretty happy with Fancy Nails Bear's choice in the end.  Gusto is a simple neighborhood Italian joint in the heart of Beverly Hills/WeHo.  It wasn't crowded at all for a Friday night, which is probably not a good sign, but it was nice to not have to shout over the din of a bustling Friday night crowd.

The guys took a backseat while Farm Bear and I took the reigns with the menu.  I love Farm Bear because she just wanted to order everything on the menu and said yes to everything I suggested.  Her verve for food and dining makes she and I kindred spirits!

Asparagi grilled asparagus, sunny side egg, fontina fonduta
It was so simple, yet so delicious.  I wish I could get my grilled veggies to taste like this.   What is the secret?!  Charcoal grill?  There was a healthy balance of salt, tang, sharp, creamy, and luscious.  Lovely. 
Lacinato shaved black kale
Kale might be the new beet or Brussels sprout today, making its appearance on practically every menu these days.  Some may find it too tough to eat raw, but when it is done right, my TMJ prone jaw is not exacerbated.  I found this to be bright and well balanced with varying textures and flavors.

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Thursday, July 17, 2014

Sushi Sushi

The birthday festivities continued with my birthday at Sushi Sushi.  Originally, Smooth Obturator wanted to go to Maude or Trois Mec, but was unable to snag a rezzie.  No worries because Smooth Obturator fell back on his trusty Sushi Sushi.  Let's be honest, LA is riddled with expensive sushi places.  Smooth Obturator and Triple T have been to many of them, but Sushi Sushi is the stand out spot for them.  It might be hard to take a place called Sushi Sushi seriously, but the sushi here is SERIOUS.  For omakase, I was supremely stuffed.  I'm not sure if it was because it was towards the end of the night and the chef was trying to clean house or all the beers he was drinking was causing him to be excessively generous.

I never had raw baby squid like this before.  I guess squid has some innards and guts that area usually removed when you buy them in the store?  I'm actually not totally sure, but something was different tasting about it and it felt like I was eating squid guts but it was so delicious!  Not off or fishy tasting. It was also lightly dressed in some ponzu.  Wow, I couldn't believe squid could taste this way.

Tuna okra, quail egg
Okra is really slimy and this preparation of it reminded me of why people dislike it (I'm looking at you, Tom Colicchio).  I actually don't mind the slime, which was actually magnified by the added raw egg.  

Geoduck roe
The fresh salty sweetness of the geoduck was well matched with the pile of roe.  Maybe too much roe, though I'm actually begin to appreciate it.

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Friday, July 11, 2014

Afters Ice Cream

I'm all over anything ice cream in OC.  I'm trying to scope out the competition for my one-day-some-day-maybe ice cream joint the in the future/in my dreams, haha.  The Yelp reviews were numerous.  Personal friends gave singing endorsements.  One night, my coworker who I'll call Fishing Zebra Man, had a rough shift at work.  So I suggested we go for some ice cream to cheer him up, killing 2 birds with one stone.  I needed someone to go here with me!  Afters merrys 2 beloved American sweets, donuts and ice cream into something they call "milky buns."  Sounds like an ingenious idea!  Why didn't anyone think of this before?

I had to stare at this crap for 30 minutes while I waited in line.  Let's just say the place doesn't win points for a sharp storefront and professional presentation.  It also didn't help being surrounded by swarms of tweeters.  God, I felt SO OLD!

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Tuesday, July 8, 2014


So the next few posts are gonna be all sushi.  I guess I ate a lot of it in the month of April.  The one good thing about Orange County is the pretty decent Japanese food.  Costa Mesa has a number of good sushi restaurants.  I had been to Angotei once before and I was pretty impressed by the omakase so I took Mama H.o.P. here for her birthday.  We actually sat in front of the same sushi chef, so I dunno what was up.  Maybe the novelty wore off?  But Mama H.o.P. didn't seem all that impressed either and it was her first time.

It was a bit heavy to be starting off with toro, but it was delectable.  Not the best, but at least not that oily fishiness I've had with not so good toro.
Clean and refreshing.  Probably shoulda started with this one.

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Sunday, July 6, 2014

Orsa & Winston

I was a bit puzzled walking into Orsa & Winston.  I had heard its Japanese-Italian, which seems like 2 completely disparate cuisines.  I couldn't imagine how they could merry harmoniously on a plate, let alone in my mouth, but the food this night certainly went far beyond my expectations.  There were definitely elements of Asian and European flavors going on here.  The food was unique and delicious.  The style of dining is omakase, so it's the chef's choice.  What you can choose is how many courses: 5, 8, or super omakase at 25!  We opted for the 8.

Amuse Bouche fennel panna cotta
These days, the amuse never really fits the definition of a "one bite" treat from the chef.  I'm not really bothered by that anymore because its just extra food anyways, and who am I to turn down extra food just because the portion size is too big??  I love panna cotta and one of my goals is to learn to make the perfect panna cotta, one that is just perfectly jiggly and most silky soft.  There were definitely some sweet savory flavors going on here.  A delightful first start.

Trout Crudo gingered cucumber gelee, radish, orange, creme fraiche
It looks like salmon huh?  It was both light and refreshing, yet rich and flavorful.  There were so many subtleties with the ingredients and flavor profiles.  One of the more distinctive and memorable crudos.

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Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Top Chef Shirley Chung Pop Up @ The Playground 2.0

I love Top Chef.  I love watching the food, the drama, the judges and contestants talking smack.  Unlike many of the other reality shows that churn out winners that don't amount to much after the ephemeral hoopla of the win passes through the minds of fans and viewers, many Top Chef winners have gone on to establish a strong presence in the culinary world, opening their own restaurants and garnering many awards. Shirley Chung did not win this last season of Top Chef, though many, including myself, thought she was a very strong contender and maybe should have won.  She herself even admitted that she "messed up" in the finale, but overall she was very thankful for the experience on the show because it really helped her "find herself."

In any case, it set her down a path to opening her own restaurant in little ole Irvine, California called "Twenty Eight" (the age she started cooking).  Why Irvine? I wouldn't really call this city an up and coming foodie town, so I'm just as confused as you.  It would have been a good question to ask Shirley, but between showing up late (like 5-10 minutes, apparently the rest of the diners who were white and had at least 20-30 years+ on me, didn't get the memo about Asian time) and Shirley's effusive excitement, it was just a flurry of eating, snapping pictures, and trying to catch every word of her explanations and background stories for each dish.

For the whopping price of $200, we were offered a 9 course tasting menu paired with drinks and inclusive of tip.  The hefty price tag might explain why the crowd was a bit more geriatric than one would expect for such a foodie event.  Really, who could throw down that kinda change?  Apparently Teety, myself, and 15 other old people!  Soprano Man had to work, *tear face*

So we didn't get the prime seats in the middle of the counter, but we still got plenty of love and attention from Shirley and and Jason Quinn (far right, chef/owner of The Playground).

Crispy Chicken Skin + Knee devil egg aioli
I'm not a huge fan of eggs, usually in breakfast format, and I'm gonna have to throw deviled eggs in that bag too.  Cooked egg yolks has such an unpalatable flavor to me since childhood.  I'll eat deviled eggs but I'll never fully love them.  Surprisingly this wasn't too yolky and was a nice complement to the crispy skin and cartilaginous knee.  A solid way to start, even for the anti-eggies.

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