Thursday, August 30, 2007

Here's to you, John, on your 50th!

Sunday evening we spent some quiet time watching both the Dodgers and the bartender at the Echo Park El Compadre refill our drinks.

How often do you have to go and how well do you have to tip to become the kind of client whose glass is filled without asking and with whom the bartender knocks back shots? I have no clue, but we got often, drink lots and tip well.

I could say more, but there is really nothing to add. Happy Birthday my dear, dear friend John. We love you!

Eating at the Bar at the Jar on Beverly

Last Friday night as we swung by The Jar on Beverly, and the siren song of Suzanne Tracht's way with meat and Margo's martinis beckoned. We headed into the packed bar, bellied up and patiently awaited seats. People watching west of La Brea is a novelty for me at this point, so I was wholly entertained by the west-ish side gentry and the obligatory celebrity. Link from the Mod Squad was sitting next to me, and I have to say he is looking well.

About the food! We started with a trio of appetizers. First up was a lobster corndog, surrounded thickly by a light textured, almost tempura-esque batter, then fried to a deep and puffy golden brown. Said dog was partnered with a cucumber mignonette and a small bowl of freshly grated horseradish. It seemed freshly grated to me, due to the water content and soft almost fluffy texture and creamy color.

The second appetizer we dug into were the shrimp crabcakes. These had a nice soft crispness around the outside and a high crab/shrimp ratio. You could bite into huge chunks of crab, and the shrimp seemed to be used to help hold the thing together. An excellent rendition.

Margo also sent us out a pair of the yummilicious crab deviled eggs. I would like to say that by adding crab, herbs and just a hint of her own special flair, Tracht creates a deviled egg that rises above their white trash roots into something sublime and refined. But I can't say that. These are simply trailer park glory. Nothing more, nothing less. I love 'em.

I also indulged myself in 6 oysters of unknown origin with an unusual mignette. It had a real smokey flavor and was dark, almost like a balsamic vinegar but not as opaque. Good oysters don't need a mignette, but this was fun to try.

We were a little disappointed in our shared entree. We ordered the 16 oz bone in filet of beef with lobster bearnaise and mustard greens. The waiter who took our order assured us no one enjoys this piece of beef medium or medium-well, and it is only properly served medium-rare. After much conversation, we gave in. But is was served literally blue. Cold in the center. I don't mind too much, I'll take my beef where I can get it. But my dining companion was unable to get past the deep red flesh and the trickling blood on the white plate.

Champagne and chocolate mousse can make up for a host of evils.

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Front Loading for Tokyo

To properly prepare my tastebuds for Japan, I am embarking on a Japanese food-fest right here in Los Angeles. The food-fest started approximately 12 years ago when I moved here, as I eat Japanese at least 2x a week. However, for the next two weeks, I am stepping it up a notch! Last night I ate at Geisha House, a trendy bi-level multi theme restaurant owned by the Dolce group.

While I am not a fan of the Dolce group restaurants, I have loved Geisha House since the day I walked in the door opening week. Geisha House has a sake bar, a classic looking sushi bar, a huge two floor dining room with a two story fire place and several private rooms encased in glass. In the private rooms, I always feel like I am eating in a Japanese jewelry box.

I arrived prior to my dinner companions, as is often the case, to enjoy a leisurely cocktail and soak in the atmosphere. I sat in the sake bar and sipped a well deserved ice cold Grey Goose martini and enjoyed a little downtime.

Dinner was spectacular! We ordered particularly well this trip. Usually we over order, because there are so many delicious things on the menu and it is small plate style. We started with eda mame, of course, and my three companions slurped at delicious bowls of miso soup (very heavy on the miso, a rich textured broth) with seaweed, cubes of soft tofu, and long king crab legs practically crawling out of the bowl. Beautiful! Next we shared two large rolls. One called the Heaven with chopped toro, special tuna and spicy tuna rolled in cucumber instead of seaweed. The second is called the Pink Lady Bubu which is made with arare shrimp, cucumber, gold tobiko and spicy crab with eel sauce drizzled over the top. I also insisted that they try the shishito peppers, small tangy green peppers slightly deep fried (no batter) so the skins just slip off in your mouth. DE-lish.

The smartest thing we did was order four orders of the filet mignon instead of trying four different small plates entrees.
It was so delicious. It was a just right portion of filet mignon, marinated and grilled, then served with a light soy, garlic and sesame dipping sauce.It was simple and so great tasting I wouldn't have wanted to share any with someone else.

One of my dining companions brought a special beverage to drink with our meals. Now, I love all kinds of dry sake, hot and cold. But I must say I was a little skecptical when he pulled out a bottle of Hana Lychee Sake. Visions of Japanese wine coolers were dancing in my head. However, I was pleasantly surprised with the first taste. The flavor was floral and a hair fruity, but not in any way sweet or cloying. Think a hint of rosewater or orange flower water rather than syrupy lychee flavoring. It stood up beautifully to the marinated steak without overpowering the more delicate appetizers. And is there a lovelier buzz than a sake buzz? A nice low alcohol fuzziness. I would order this sake any time, and if I can find it in one of the Asian markets by my house I am stocking up.

For dessert we ordered the Rice flour banana fritters which was basically a half banana fried in a tempura mix with caramel and chocolate sauce, the presentation was slightly messy looking but it was delicious.

We also ordered the molten chocolate cake, which was served in a bento box with a healthy scoop of vanilla bean ice cream. The presentation was just lovely, but the flavor was a little lacking. The cake part was a hair dry and there was not enough molten action happening in the center. But presenting a dessert in a bento box with a lid is such a lovely idea I may have to pick some of these up to have on hand at home

Friday, August 17, 2007

Testing, Testing...1-2-3!

While sitting at work all week, alternating between looking at posts on Craiglist, planning my upcoming trip and trying to spread out the small amount of work that needed to be done by me this week, a light bulb went on. Now is the perfect time to start my much ruminated upon blog. I have wanted to be a food writer for several years. However, I thoroughly enjoy the job that I have and for now am committed to it. Blogging about the food that I eat, experience and cook, the adventures that I have and the grog that I quaff will hopefully fulfill that desire and also be a great project to embark upon. Context and purpose for my vices, if you will.

I am leaving on my trip two weeks from today. In preparation, my friend Jan suggested I look at a website called The Universal Packing List. There you input the destination, date, predicted weather, potential activities, and various other details. UPL generates a list of both items to pack and chores that need to be done prior to leaving. My list for this trip was 90+ items.

Among the more obscure are the following:
  • Being that the highs will be 90 and lows about 70, I find advice to bring tights on the odd side. Where will I be wearing tights when it is 90 degrees and high humidity?

  • More entertaining I find is the advice to bring a fleece sweater. Fleece is advised in particular because it can double as a head wrap during cool evenings. I love the idea of myself walking around the fashionable Ginza district of Tokyo with a blue fleece sweater wrapped around my head.

  • Social Insurance. Is this insurance against being a social outcast? What is one insured against if they have a social insurance policy? Sounds suspiciously EU to me.

  • It's not so much the advice to bring a corkscrew that I find entertaining, but more the directions on how to use one. I throw my head back in laughter.

One item that has me flummoxed is item #13, Get Maps. The UPL suggests that I get any maps I might need at home. Here is the issue. Will the maps need to be in Japanese? I don't read Japanese. If I get the maps in English, will I know where I am going because when I get there everything will be in Japanese? Meaning characters, of course, as opposed to being translated in to the Latin alphabet. Interesting.