Wednesday, June 25, 2008

At Long Last, Ford's Filling Station

I fell in love with the gastro pub movement on a trip to London with my mother several years ago. We dined like kings (queens, really) at more than fair prices in some beautiful, some crowded and some downright plush gastro pubs all about London. The fun thing about traveling with my mom is that she will plan en entire day around where we are going to dine, much less simple activities. And gastro pubs with their laid back attitude and antithetical food are right up my gastronomic alley. So, imagine my state of happiness when the gastro pub trend started to hit California in the last several years. I had intended to hit Ford's long ago, but it is not so close to Echo Park and it can be hard to get a reservation.

D's parents happened to move to Culver City not an overly long time ago, and I used a weeknight dinner as an excuse to finally corral some peeps there for a supper. Ford's is owned and chefed by Harrison Ford's son, Benjamin, who has a varied culinary pedigree. Our server ostentatiously mentioned the famous/infamous influences of several of Ford's creations..."this influenced by Alice Waters, that influenced by X chef from Y wildly famous French restaurant" and so on. Really, I am as into food and famous chefs as the next food blogger, but it was a bit westside-who-are-you-wearing-what-are-you-driving for me. Below is a link to the Ford Filling Station's website and Ford's bio.

We were sat at a table closest to the beautiful brassy wood burning ovens. L noted every single delectable item that was placed on the pass through for waiters to swing by and pick up. Flatbread pizzas, salads, charcuterie, cheese plates, fish, steak, shellfish and so on. It was all I could do to keep my paws to myself while I waited for our errant waiter to come take our order. It was some good seating.

The first solid items to enter our mouths came straight from the bowels of the firey hot oven. These little babies were warm and crunchy on the outside with a soft butteriness in the inside. They were accessorized with little chunks of sticky baked garlic. I could have eaten all four and happily hibernated for the night.

Next our...

wait for it....




TRUFFLED POTATO CHIPS were brought out. Yes. TRUFFLED POTATO CHIPS. Did you hear me? Potato chips that were cooked whilst somehow infusing them with the flavor of truffles. *dies* Please see below.

For s starter I had six beautiful little oysters called kusshi, served with a tomato mignonette, beautifully. I am a long time oyster eater, but had never heard of kusshi before.

Penn Cove Oysters says the following about kusshi oysters,

"From the Japanese translation for "Ultimate", this small, deeply cupped Pacific oyster is grown to mimic the outstanding characteristics Kumamoto oyster, although they are tray grown in a very unique process in the rich waters of Deep Bay off of Vancouver Island in British Columbia, Canada. While they are tray raised, they are tumbled regularly to take the length out of the growth, causing the oyster to grower deeper in profile. This effort creates a consistently deep cupped, very meaty little oyster, appealing to beginner oyster eaters and old pros alike."

I completely agree about them being pleasing to beginners and pros alike. They have a similarly unintimidating size as kumamotos. However, they have a nice little pocket of creamy flesh on the bottom. And what really pleased me is that instead of tasting metallic and minerally like a kumamoto (something I loved when I was a noob) they taste creamy and rich, almost similar to a fat Blue Point. These might be my new most favorite oyster ever. I would definitely go back to Ford's for those babies, if for nothing else. And there was so much else.

Salads. A and L shared the mixed green salad with enoki mushrooms on top and some raddichio. It was lovelier in person, flash photography can really ruin the appearance of food in a photo.

D started on the Bibb lettuce salad with shaved eggs, bacon and
grilled tomatoes.

For a main course I ordered the skirt steak on a bed of fennel mashed potatoes. I couldn't be less a fan of licorice flavoring, and I happily tasted none of it in these potatoes. The funny looking grilled veg on the side was actually a giant slab of some wonderful mushroom. I love grilled mushroom. Twas delighted.

L had the Pub Burger, which she said was very good, and it was served with giant fresh onion rings which I know were very good.

A had the pan seared red fish, which flummoxed us. What is red fish? Is it akin to red snapper? Is it one of the new fish that has a less desirable name and so they have reamed it to make it seem more appealing now that we are busy divesting the sea of her harvest?

Fish 4 Fun says the following,

"The widely distributed Drum family contains over 200 tropical and warm-temperature saltwater marine species, including Drum, Croaker, Seatrout, Seabass, and Weakfish. The range of the Red Drum is from Massachusetts USA south to Northern Mexico in the Atlantic Ocean and Gulf of Mexico.

The Red Drum, also known as the Redfish or Channel Bass, has a reddish overall coloration and one or more dark spots at the base of the tail. It feeds at the bottom on crustaceans and mollusks. It also takes small fish, especially mullet. The usual adult weight is under 40 pounds but can reach into the 90 pound range.

The Redfish is a super-challenging opponent on the grass beds and flats of Florida and the Gulf of Mexico. The shallower the water, the more thrilling the fight. The bulk of small marine life and food will be found in shallow water around structures and near grassy cover. This offers the small fish, crustaceans and mollusks protection from predators. Therefore, Redfish will be found near this abundant food supply."

Upon further research and looking at pics of the Red Drum fish, I find no need for a euphemism here. I wonder if it has to do with The Shining? Red rum, red rum!

D had the scallops, well done as you can see. Mais, bien sur!

All in all, this was a delicious sojourn into the western territory of Los Angeles. Every bite was tasty and the only thing that gave me pause was the service. It wasn't glaringly bad, per se. (Visit the entry about Saddle Peak Lodge for a hair curler). It was just slightly below mediocre due to its absenteeism. I plan to ignore that and go back many times. Next time I will sit at the lovely bar with the lovely bar tender and enjoy the company of the locals.

The Hot Summer Sun Valley

Basketball and beer bongs, caftans and craziness, spliffs and skinny bitches. A bottle of Hornitos passed 'round to the listless and laughing floaters in the pool.

Later there was Asahi,

Sho Chiku Bai

and sushi

in this wee strip mall,

amid more laughter and loveliness, and some longing?

And at long last, sunset.

Friday, June 13, 2008

The Last Supper

It would not be a trip to Honolulu without a meal at Maguro-Ya. We go there for sushi every single visit.

Nothing is particularly new or original, but everything tastes good.

The fish, it's like buttah.

I hate to finish this meal. Afterward we say goodbye.

Rush Hour in Paradise

Our last evening in Honolulu and we are heading out to meet important people and do insignificant things.

The view from out hotel hallway window is beautiful and strange.

I don't know why, but I always love taking pics of sundown rush hour in Honolulu. Maybe it's the juxtaposition of the Hawaiian landscape against the familiarity of the taillights ahead.

People play soccer in fields along the Ala Wai Canal.

With Waikiki blocks and blocks to the south and Punahou on our immediate right, we are almost there.

Alan Wong's Pineapple Room

During my trip to Honolulu, I desperately wanted to visit Alan Wong's on King Street and sit at the chef's counter. However, busy happy family things took precedence over decadent meals. As a substitute, on our last day there we ate at the more casual Alan Wong's Pineapple Room at the Ala Moana mall. The food was shockingly delicious. Maybe even better than the food at Mariposa. It didn't have the same atmosphere or view as Mariposa, but yes, I think I agree with myself, the food kicked ass.

D started with this amazing tomato soup. I have no idea what the exact enticing and very savory ingredients were in this, aside from tomato and the big shrimp on top, but we seriously scraped the sides of the bowl.

We shared this unusual preperation of eda mame. These were sauteed Chinese style, the way long beans are done at one of my favorite Chinese places in Los Angeles, Mandarette. It was nice to have soy beans done this way. They were very garlicky, and worth every moment of compromised breath.

For an entree I ate the shrimp & crab Caesar. Again, emphasis on garlic but this time balanced nicely with anchovies. Here, like several other of the restaurants on this trip, the menu explicitly listed the provenance of much of the local flora and fauna featured on the menu. The menu had a nice balance of surf and turf, something not always seen in Hawaii with the obvious typical emphasis on seafood.

On the way back to the car I stopped to say hello to the beautiful koi. Hello fishies!

A Special Lunch

After a very long swim up and back Ala Moana beach, a special lady treated us to a special lunch at nearby Longhi's. Lunch tends to be my favorite meal of the day when on an active vacation. I am surprised I had never been to Longhi's on one of my many trips to Honolulu. It was delightful!

The interior has a deep-South meets tropical paradise kind of feel. The wide open plantation shutters give it a breeziness. The cane chairs are slightly distressed. The slowly rotating ceiling fans and checkerboard floors made me crave a mint julep on the front porch while waiting for Ashley's afternoon visit.

They start everyone off at lunch with irresistible pizza bread. There is nothing like water sports to elevate your appetite to monstrous proportions, and we literally devoured all that bread in about 10 minutes. I focused on the one with jalapeno and jack cheese.

For lunch I started with a beautiful artichoke that was unfortunately soaked in butter. Swimming, potentially drowning. Delicious yes, but a little OTT, if you text messagers know what I mean.

D started with a hearty salad of Big Island grown lettuce with bleu cheese, red onions, Maui tomatoes (safe from the recall, dontcha know?), and green beans.

Next we shared a massive BLT on toasted wheat bread with cheddar. A nice melty twist on the classic.

Anyone who has been to Hawaii know about all the beautiful little birds. The majority of them are fairly unafraid of humans.

Because the walls were basically open shutters, a few birds would flit in and out seeking any errant crumbs on the checkerboard floors. Luckily the restaurant was pristine in its cleanliness, so they didn't stick around long.

Add to that the fact that I was serene from all the swimming and blissful from being on vacation, and you might deduce that I was charmed rather than grossed out. That, and they make for beautiful photographs.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Izakaya Nonbei

One Chowhounder very quietly rec'd Izakaya Nonbei in a query for good izakaya in Honolulu.

We were unable to get into the other two more adamantly rec'd izakaya the night of my brother's high school graduation, so I steered everyone to Nonbei and we had a great meal.

Above, the Honolulu Advertiser gives them a good review and details many of their dishes I didn't get a chance to try. They say,

"Izakaya Nonbei serves a bit of everything in a very homey and warm atmosphere; they offer a good way to get acquainted with Japanese food while satisfying conflicting palates. You'll be enjoying your dinner bellied up to a bar, so it's a friendly and social style of dining. Nonbei is not only a "happy drinking place" — it's also a happy eating place."

The interior is cozy and mysterious. There are tables designed for patrons to sit on tatami mats whilst dining, and large party tables. On the wall writ in Japanese characters are something that must be part of the menu, as a couple had "sold out" written across them on post-it notes.

We took up a sweet corner of the bar, introduced Dad to unfiltered sake, and got started.

First came a generous portion of mackerel sashimi with ponzu sauce.

Next served was a giant wedge of daikon stewed in a thin brown gravy with some cooked albacore. I have had this in several other izakaya, so it must be traditional.

Out marched pickled vegetables, sea eel in a light bbq sauce, and broiled butterfish.

My personal favorite dish of the evening was the poke. I love poke everywhere. The poke at Izakaya Nonbei was delightfully garlicky with lots of green onions and some fresh tangy sprout-like things.

Our served suggested we end the meal with a large bowl of ramen covered in a variety of fresh and pickled veggies in a light steamy broth.

Our meal was delicious with several stand out items, the poke and the broiled butterfish especially. Our service was attentive and friendly. Dad cannot wait to go again and take someone to share his discovery. Afterward, we headed over to the graduation ceremony where I promptly fell asleep on D's shoulder. I missed a couple of reportedly long and arduous speeches. I awoke just in time to pay attention to the talented students' musical performances and didn't miss a second of the traditional balloon naughtiness.

Ho'omaika'i 'ana & Pomaika`i, Punahou grads. Live happy lives!