Sunday, November 30, 2014

The Factory Kitchen

I think I'm ready to admit to myself that I like Italian more than French food.  Growing up, I had more French influences in my life than Italian.  Baguette and pate were common things in my household.  Escargot and poulet roti were foods that I ate without a second thought.  To love French food is to be refined and sophisticated.  But when it comes down to it, French food is boring.  I need some zing in my life and Italian food really brings it.

Pomodori heirloom tomatoes, red onion, radish, shallot vinaigrette, basil
Me and tomatoes are best friends.  Or maybe it's actually a one sided relationship because tomatoes don't have feelings and could not possibly love me back.  Either way, I love me a good heirloom tomato.  Considering it's not actually tomato season, these guys were juicy and sweet.  I really loved the vinaigrette which had a tomato sauce quality to it.  It was just more tomatoes on top of tomatoes.

Prosciutto parma prosciutto aged 24 months, lightly fried sage dough, stracciatella

This had some much promise.  You can't go wrong with fried dough and prosciutto.  Everything was really nice except that fried dough part.  It had a strange slightly sweet donut quality to it that was distracting.  I'm sure that's how it's supposed to taste but I guess I wasn't expecting it.

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Thursday, November 27, 2014

Lemongrass Express

So I'm finally getting around to my Big Island vacation eats from the summer.  I didn't really plan on any specific places to hit up.  In fact, I did very little planning for the whole trip.  Thanks to Fat-Skinny-Fat-Less Fat and Dairy Queen, I just hopped along for the ride and kinda played the fooding by ear.  It's a pleasant surprise when you just stumble upon delicious gems.  I really feel Lemongrass Express was a fortuitous find.  It was close by.  It was well rated.  It was reasonably priced.  There was no wait.  I guess it helps when you eat at 3pm.  Maybe it was so delicious because we were all so frickin' hungry.  A day at the beach, snorkeling and boogie boarding can do that to you.  Of course, everyone (The Mexican Manchild, FxGf/FW, Fat-Skinny-Fat-Less Fat, Sleepy Snoozer, The Cat Whisperer, and Ho-Bag) kicked back and let me do the ordering.  The waiter was really helpful in guiding me to their most popular specialties.

Papaya Salad chili, garlic, lime
Ho-Bag and I were really starving for some fiber during our Hawaii trip.  I learned that Hawaiian food is rather unhealthy and unbalanced, heavy on the starch, protein, and oil.  This was bright and refreshing, just what I craved.  Not particularly special but necessary to balance out the lunch.
Thai Beef Salad sweet onion, pepper, cucumber, fresh herbs, lemongrass citrus vinaigrette
I just had to throw in another salad.  More brightness and crunch.

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Saturday, November 22, 2014


Who doesn't love lobster anything?  Slapfish serves up lobster rolls and other seafood themed eats just steps away from the beach in the heart of Laguna Beach.  The original location is in Huntington Beach, which, for people like LoMa-Linda and BigHead Talks-A-Lot, would be like hiking it to Mongolia on a camel.  Since moving to OC, the driveable radius for these guys has like shrunk to 5-10 miles.  Laguna Beach is actually outside of their limits, but the temptation of lobster outweighed the inconvenient drive. 

Chowder Fries house cut fries, chowder, bacon
No surprises here.  It's fries with chowder and bacon.  I think they need to work on their fries, which were a little lackluster, the same way In 'N Out fries leave me wanting more.
Traditional Lobster Roll 100% real lobster meat, warm butter, lemon, mayo

So much potential!  Alas, their "100% real lobster meat" was 100% crappy legs and claws.  If you've ever broken down a lobster, you'd know how difficult it is to extract any meat from those 8 scrawny legs.  In the end, that meat is not worth your time and effort.  At Slapfish, it's very much worth their time and effort to charge you almost $20 for meat that would normally get tossed in the garbage bin.  I'll give it up to them for keeping the dressing pretty light and not dousing the whole thing in mayo.  The roll was soft and buttered to a crisp.  It was my favorite part.  I really wanted to know where I could get some for myself.  I tried making lobster rolls once, but the hot dog buns really killed any potential my 100% tail meat lobster roll was going to have.  The side slaw was quit enjoyable and brought a little bit of crunch and some nice acid to the plate.  Those chips coulda been crispier.

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Monday, November 17, 2014


I'm coming realize that Orange Country has some pretty darn good sushi at an amazing price point.  While I've never been to LA's high end sushi places like Sushi Zo or the bang-for-your-buck joints like Hama Sushi, I have been to the ever popular Sushi Gen.  I was quite impressed with the omakase at Sushi Gen, but I was a bit miffed by the price tag.  I was kinda hungry after $75 worth of sushi.  So I've been pretty happy to find a place like Ohshima, where $50 gets you about 8 pieces of high quality sushi.  It's key to sit at the bar to enjoy the best fish because I was unimpressed with my dining room experience.  This applies to ALL sushi restaurants.  If you haven't been sitting at the bar when you eat sushi, you are doing it all wrong.  I liked that Ohshima serves many of their pieces as-is meaning, no extra soy sauce for dipping is needed.   Some people might find the put off by the nazi-like style, but I don't mind being told how to eat my food.  I guess they embody the true meaning of omakase, "to entrust."  Keep in mind, the following is a mix of 2 separate meals at Ohshima so it's more pieces than $50 will buy you.

Sea Bream
Light.  Clean.  Always a good way to start.

Blue Fin Tuna chu toro
Particularly delicious without being overly fatty and lingering on the tastebuds.

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Sunday, November 16, 2014


My experience with Szechuan cuisine is pretty limited.  I've probably eaten it only a handful of times and I was never impressed or filled with a desire to go back for more.  I think people always mistake Szechuan food for being particularly spicy, which it's really not.  Though, my spice-O-meter may not be representative for the average person.  I can handle the heat.  Szechuan food is spicy in that numbing tingling Szechuan peppercorn spice.  It's a very specific kick to your tastebuds.  And it's hard to avoid it when your food is swimming in these peppercorns.

After Ho Bag and company (Crack, CrackBaby, Crack Baby Daddy, Bang Bang, Ever-Knee, Tall Steven, Short Steve, Always-Makes-Me-Laugh)  were sufficiently "pumpkin wasted" from pumpkin carving and noshing on awesome spiced pumpkin muffins, we chowed down like royalty at Chuan's.  We bypassed the crowd, waved to the manager like we were old friends, and ordered almost everything on the menu like we were starving Africans.  And when were still hungry after round 1, we ordered more.  It's like we owned the place, but really we were just a bunch of nobodies tagging along with a somebody, Tall Steven who had the hookups for this place.  

I actually didn't get to try it.

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Thursday, November 13, 2014


The April birthday dinners in my family were pretty good with Orsa & Winston and Sushi Sushi.  September rolled around (yes I'm behind on the blogging!), and it was time to treat Smooth Obturator to something tasty.  Triple T, being the thoughtful wife that she is, made reservations at chi SPACCA knowing the carnivorous glutton in my brother would appreciate the offerings here.  She isn't a fan of fatty meats or the odd bits of animals, but knew I would like this place too so majority rules I guess.  Chi SPACCA has been on my to-try list for a while but I never got around to it because the menu seemed so unbalanced.  I like meat but I don't want to eat JUST meat.  To my surprise, 3 other LA based chefs were dining there that night: Jet Tila, Govind Armstrong, and Susan Goin.  My lingering reservations morphed into excitement because I knew a restaurant had to be pretty good if other chefs were eating there.

Culatello lambrusco washed, aged 15 months
The waitress did a good job selling this.  Made in house, cured by the chef himself, blah blah blah.  Smooth Obturator and I are suckers for cured meats.  I can't say this was all that amazing given the price tag.  I'd rather have some Iberico ham.

Roasted Squash Blossoms ricotta, tomato vinaigrette
I don't think I've ever had a bad squash blossom.  I loved the little vinaigrette, which felt like a looser tomato sauce.

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Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Jöel Robuchon

A new era in my life has started.  I no longer look forward to the wild partying, excessive drinking, and artery clogging buffet eating in Vegas.  Now when I think about Vegas, I get excited by the thought of eating something fancy and delicious.  Welcome to old age, right?  So the real reason behind my summer Vegas trip, aside from enjoying the company of my wonderful friends The Pouter, Teety, and Soprano Man, who shall now be renamed Yums (because that's what he always says when he eats something tasty), was to finally eat at the world famous Jöel Robuchon.  We planned our trip around this very meal.  Yums was such a good sport because he actually ate there a few weeks ago, but knew all of us wanted to go there so just shelled out another $$$$ to eat there again with us.  We love you Yums!  Jöel Robuchon is actually the only 3 star Michelin restaurant in the Los Angeles area.  However, the Michelin guide has not revisited Los Angeles since 2009 so how relevant are those 3 stars now 5 years later?

Bread Cart
The French people love their bread.  While a selection like this is almost like an adult version of a "kid in a candy store," I would opt for fewer breads that are warm.  Nothing beats warm bread.

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Sunday, November 9, 2014

Bistrot L'Ancienne Auberge 1900

After some heavy hitting (stomach and wallet wise), meals in France, it was nice to have something casual.  It seems like every country has their special prized chickens.  Jidori chickens of Japan, and Bresse chickens of France, or "poulet de Bresse."  The high quality reputation of "poulet de Bresse" has been longstanding, maybe as far back as 1800s.  A chicken can only earn the labeling of "poulet de Bresse" if it is from the Bresse breed of chickens and if it has been bred in the Bresse region of eastern France.  "Poulet de Bresse" is actually an AOC designation, similar to how a Bordeux wine can only be called Bordeux if it meets certain quality measures.  Lucky for us, Vonnas, was sort of on the way back from the south of France back to Paris.

Crème Brûlée de Foie Gras
We had really great whether on our vacation.  The sun was shining, but it was RAINING foie gras.  I loved the salty sweetness here.  It tasted desserty but it had a familiar and savory essence.  Yums!

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Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Paul Bocuse, L'Auberge du Pont de Collognes

There are certain names in the food world that set off bells in one's head, James Beard, Julia Child.  Some names are certainly more main stream than others.  Paul Bocuse is probably a bit less mainstream.  He's no Wolfgang Puck, who has his name on frozen pizza boxes and his mug on iced coffee drinks.  I first heard the name in relation to the international cooking contest, Bocuse d'Or, a competition akin to the Olympics for the culinary world.  But I eventually learned that Paul Bocuse is a famous and legendary French chef with a long list of culinary achievements.  I don't want to bore you with his resume, but for the purposes of this entry, he is the mastermind behind this 3 star Michelin restaurant in Lyon, France.  Anthony Bourdain called Paul Bocuse "the great chef, a public figure, a hero, an institution."  Dining with Paul Bocuse at his own restaurant was "the meal of [his] lifetime."  I, of course, watched that episode of No Reservations, so I was totally excited to be eating here.

There is only one word to describe the food and the restaurant.  Classic and old school.  The food here is prepared and served the same way it has been for decades.  Many chefs, who have gone on to run their own celebrated kitchens, have spent time in Bocuse's kitchen.  The restaurant is bright, colorful, and bordering on gaudy.  It harks back to an era in time when gold equated to opulence.  Everything just seemed to shine.  You have your choice of menus: grand traditional (6 courses, 250), bourgeois (5 courses, 210€), traditional (4 courses, 160€).  Keep in mind these are not tasting menus, but rather multi course dinners.  The portions are quite large and we were all overwhelming stuffed at the end.  

Potato Leek Soup
Celery Cream with Shrimp
Roquefort with Apple Gelee
The amuse bouche trio was a delightful little start to the evening.  It always seems you can never go wrong with a small bite of anything.

Lobster Bisque
Very likely the best lobster bisque I have tasted.  Seriously the French make everything taste magical when cream is added to anything.

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