Sunday, July 27, 2008

My New Most Favorite Blog...Al Dente

This blog is run by editors at, who "love to cook, decorate, garden, and most! We're in the know about the hottest products for the kitchen and home, including top-of-the-line kitchen appliances, unique cook's tools, chompable dog toys, must-have grills, mouthwatering gourmet food, and much, much more. Come back and visit us on our blog frequently to get our latest takes on the hippest things for your kitchen and home." So clearly this is a blogging venture aimed somewhat at making more money for amazon.

Nevertheless, they run a series of posts called the "Almost Edible Photo". One recent Almost Edible Photo is the following:

Apparently, cupcake shops around the country are now serving frosting shots. A'hem. Nom.

This little doozy is titled an "Almost (In) Edible Photo". Called a "Lutherburger", these are bacon cheeseburgers constructed inside a Krispy Kreme glazed.

I am not even sure what to say about this. So wrong, it is almost right.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

5 Nights in Bakersfield: Night #5

Air Conditioning.



Room service.

Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day.


The end.

5 Nights in Bakersfield: Night #4, continued

After prepping my tummy and my liver at Prime Cut Meats & Eats, we strolled across the 105 degree tarmac of the outlying strip mall over to The Orchid, Thai restaurant and wine bar.

The concept here is seriously cool. We had a great time. They have wine, good wine, installed in this customer-run wine bar. You prepay at the cash register, then you take a card to the bar, choose the glass size and hold your glass under the spout while the wine pours out.

There is a white side with old and new world whites, that shockingly did not rely overly on California chardonnay. Impressive. The red side was even more so. Chateau Montelina cab was a stand out. There were many excellent choices.

FYI, D! You need to hold the glass under the right spout or the $20 glass of wine spills on the floor and the deaf busboy has to mop it up. Just saying.

I was loving the Singha patio, for cooler days.

The above two fellas must be of heartier stock than I, to enjoy a long supper and red wine in that heat out of doors. That, or they are cold blooded lizard men.

The menu looks promising at The Orchid, but does not deliver. We ordered a few small plates and just took them as they came out of the kitchen. When I get the chance, I order crab rangoon because it is rarely on menus in Los Angeles. It is a decadent little dish, something people from the US without exotic tastebuds can enjoy. These were meh. The sauce tasted like something out of a bottle or jar, and the rangoons themselves were not particularly crabby.

D ordered the naked shrimp salad. This was the stand out, and we gobbled it up.

Bakersfield Life is an online magazine. Their restaurant critics are two ladies called the "Dining Divas". Their commentary reads like the script from "Bronx Beat" on SNL. They raved about the lobster truffle mac and cheese. Well, lobster? Truffles? One martini and a glass of wine down my gullet? Try and stop me!

This was a sad disappointment. There was no lobster. There was no truffle. In place of the lobster were chunks of prawn. In place of the truffle were shavings of some large type of dark mushroom. Sad, sad, sad. And a gut bomb.

The last dish was a little salad with shrimp (?) and avocado underneath a tidal wave of creamy dressing. The dressing was not as gross as it looked because it was miso rather than cream or mayo based. But still. Why not just serve me a saucer of dressing? Just asking.

The benefit to having eaten prior to arriving at The Orchid is that I wasn't that hungry. We tasted bits here and there, but truly didn't eat much. It wasn't that good, and the calories were not worthy of consumption. I might go back, though. I love the concept. I love the wines. And our server was charming despite mentioning that his "heroes" in life are Mel Gibson and Christian Bale. A gay Christian anti-semite? He seemed to have no problem with D. Maybe he found D attractive. This bears further exploration. LOL.

5 Nights in Bakersfield: Night #4

This was the toughest day of the week. D drove all the way out to spend time with me, take me to dinner, and I came back to the hotel from my training with feet like little footballs and my hair a veritable fright wig from all the dry heat. I was solely in the mood to lay on the bed and watch crap tv. Instead I rallied and he took good care of me. We started by taking a long drive through seedy downtown Bakersfield looking for a Thai massage place or a decent day spa. Do not do this.

I wanted to go to a wine bar/Thai restaurant I had read about online, but strangely, I needed to unwind by eating and drinking before I could enjoy my dinner. Don't ask. So we ended up here, at Prime Cut Meats & Eats and Butcher Shop. Best food I ate all week.

This is a New Orleans inspired restaurant, and it is not a chain. The decor is cohesive and professional looking enough that I thought surely this at least has aspirations on chainage. And maybe it will become one eventually. But for now it is one-off.

There is all kinds of amusing and thematic signage covering every usable wall space, but this Blues Brothers vinyl, taken good care of, impressed me.

We drank huge martinis and ate beautiful, fresh, cold, massive oysters on the half shell. I don't usually love the big ones, but these were not overly creamy nor were they too fishy.

We also shared a small bowl of gumbo. Best gumbo I have ever eaten, full stop. Spicy, savory, smokey, big chunks of fish, andouille sausage, and crayfish. I was wowed.

In retrospect, we should have stayed put. We were well tended and the food was wonderful.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

5 Nights in Bakersfield: Night #3

On night #3 (I spent night #2 huddled in my room, catching some z's under the AC) I threw caution to the wind and let my colleague choose a restaurant, even though I had several strong recommendations elsewhere. Knowing I will be here the rest of the week and one more upcoming, I am sure I will get plenty of opportunity to dine in other places.

So tonight we dined at Mama Tosca at the behest of my friend and colleague A. I get why he likes Moma Tosca. It's in an upscale mini-mall, and the decor and service were lovely. But the food was meh, and it was pricey. M and I started with the onion soup (NOT included in the price of dinner, but somehow the waiter made it sound inclusive. I don't mind spending the money but the soup was fairly flavorless.) It was Italian style, in a light broth with a few croutons and lots of shaved parm.

My main course was sea bass in an arabbiata style red sauce. I was in the mood for something light due to the 100+ weather, and this fit the bill. It could have been spicier, but the fish was fresh enough. The pasta was flavorless. Literally. Like eating soft newspaper. It tasted boxed and without even a trace of olive oil or butter. The veg was overcooked and slightly mushy.

A had the penne arabbiata with chicken. It looked nice enough, but the flavor was more or less the same as what I was eating. I felt bad he had to endure an entire bowl of pasta from a box for $25.

Our experience begs the following question: if a tiny little restaurant in Hemet, called Dattilo's on Florida, can make their own pasta from scratch daily and charge $15 an entree including soup or salad, why can't a fancier place in Bakersfield do the same for close to twice the price? My meal, including one glass of wine was $59. WTF?

5 Nights in Bakersfield: Night #1

Late in the first night of my two separate weeks in Bakersfield, D and I crossed the parking lot of the Double Tree Inn to nosh at the Black Angus. I gotta say, it weren't fancy, but it tasted good.

Simple, crispy green salad with lots o' veggies. Very fresh.

8 oz filet mignon w/sauteed onions on the side. Clean baked spud. Steamed mixed veg. I ate it and it was all good. I ate a lot of stuff in Bakersfield later in the week that made me wish I had gone back to Black Angus. Later in the week I was also perusing Chowhound message boards. Rereading the thread about the disappointment of Cut in Beverly Hills, I wish I had eaten a very decent steak at Black Angus both nights I went to Cut and had put that cash into my ING account instead.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Chi Dynasty, Reopened

According to a source close to my heart, long time favorite Chinese restaurant in Los Feliz, Chi Dynasty has reopened down the road next to Ye Rustic Inn on Hillhurst.

According to my source, the Asian (non-Chinese) landlords at the old space kicked out the owners of the old establishment, lured away their waiters and their sous-chef and tried to continue operations under the name Chi Dynasty. Oh, the humanity.

The old owners apparently sued and got the name back. Now they are next to everyone's favorite sticky floored watering hole on the 2100 block of Hillhurst.

I will go to bed tonight dreaming of Chinese chicken salad, sauteed long green beans and countless Mai Tais. I will be visiting this weekend at the new location.

This news was sent to me from a small computer at the bottom of someone's purse.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

!!!!Lotta_Cox gets a nod on EaterLA!!!!

EaterLa, my holy grail of LA food blogs, gave my alter ego Lotta_Cox's recent posting a link! Happy day! Apparently, she was complaining (kind of, not really) about the lack of food at the Bastille Day benefit for Chef Billy Walsh at the Foundry.

Chef Billy Walsh of Osteria Latini was in a scooter accident in May sans health insurance. Funds raised will go to assist Walsh in his recovery. The benefit at the Foundry was hosted by Eric Greenspan, natch, with chefs from Providence and Craft, along with bartenders from The Doheny, Malo, Osteria Mozza, Comme Ca, The Edison and Gordon Ramsay. The bartenders were brilliant, the drinks lovely. Greenspan meandered around as usual, and Reid Scott from My Boys seemed to be hosting. It's a blast to have such excellent people watching when the natives are friendly and the cause is good.

Check out the link for Balshtille Day at the Foundry! I remain as sheepish as ever about even deigning to complain about the food. But I will not be sheepish (at this stage anyway) about a little self promotion!

Go Lotta! Rock on with your frock on! Food Delivery for the Geographically Undesireable

I have been using for my food delivery needs over here in Echo Park for the last few months. They say they have been servicing LA since 2001, but I think they must have recently expanded their service area. I seem to recall them saying nay to deliveries this far east about two years ago.

At any rate, recently they have delivered lovely meals from Vermont, Daily Grill, The Grill on Hollywood (which has jumbo lump crab cocktails, hence the distinction) and Kazoko Sushi twice, both times were very serviceable.

LABite has a laundry list of restaurants in several price ranges, they calculate a service fee and a tip (ok, ok, it's not their restaurant that is profiting from the food purchases so I get the necessity), and the driver never tries to get you to tip him extra at the door, nor will he even let you if you try.

Check it out, readers.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Cafe Stella Al Fresco

There has been a minor remodel at Silverlake's Cafe Stella, and I thought this weekend was the perfect time to have a late supper with friends, enjoy the summer night and see if they have improved their service. Last time we were there the service was abominable. So poor I e-mailed the manager, described it to him and he offered to buy us dinner if we came in again. I never took him up on it because a) I don't need free dinner, and b) I don't want to be the identified as the woman who complained about the service at a restaurant in my own neighborhood. But it was enough to make us stay away from Stella for over a year. It was nice to be back and despite a few minor glitches we had a great time and good food. A recent reviewer on Yelp mentioned that Stella probably pays $500 a month for rent and wonders why their prices are so high. I had to laugh out loud at this. Clearly this person has very little knowledge about the east side neighborhoods. Silverlake is the new West Hollywood of Los Angeles, and Cafe Stella is situated in prime real estate near the Sunset Junction next door to the new and fabulous Intelligentsia coffee shop, The Cheese Store of Silverlake, a high end florist and an even higher end tennis shoe store, and across the street from *gasp* a gelato cafe. Make no mistake, this is not the Silverlake of even 10 years ago. Things are changing fast. I think the changes bring a love/hate dynamic for locals. I personally love it...and I am glad that Cafe Stella remains despite what must be severely elevating rents.

D and I started off in the bar with a glass of red and a glass of fizz, served by a lovely,warm and loquatious bartender. They have taken the nice little booths out of the bar, which I miss. We used to always eat in those booths. The tables that are in there now aren't big enough for more than two people. But I think the bar does look more spacious. T & C arrived and we moved out to a table on the patio, which they have now extended all the way past the Cheese Store. LOTS more room out there, and it looks very, very nice. Below is the view from out table sitting in front of the Cheese Store of Silverlake, best cheese store of all time.

Here is my view looking into the window of the world's best cheese store.

I am going to mention that our service was beyond slow, and D had to get up and ask for a bottle of wine and tell someone that we were ready to order. Aside from that, our server was very good at her job, I think they were understaffed that night. It seemed as though they had too many support personal (bussers, runners, hostesses) and not enough actual physical wait staff for the busy evening. Maybe someone called in sick. Nevertheless, we were in great company and having a great time.

I started with simply heirloom tomatoes in a light dressing with thinly sliced red onions. My favorite thing in the summer. T started with the beautiful looking Caesar, we were both unhappy with the citrusy dressing. Too much citrus, not enough egg yolk, garlic or anchovy, in both our opinions.

D & C both had the seared scallops for a starter, they looked beautiful on a bed of cooked greens, and I meant to taste them. I was so entranced with my fresh heirlooms, I forgot.

For dinner, T & I both had the moules frites, in white wine and shallot cream. T thought the mussels were a bit on the small side. And she was right, of course. Even though this must be TMI, I prefer my mussels smaller because the larger ones get stuck in my teeth. ANYWAY! I enjoyed my moules thoroughly.

The frites came with truffle oit as an option. Need I say more? The taste was nice, but they were small pieces of potato, there were no long, satisfyingly crunchy frites. There were lots of short greasy bits. I was not thrilled with these. I think I ate them all anyway.

D & C ordered the steak frites (frites all around, please!). D wanted steak frites with a New York cut, but the chef won't cook a New York well done. The chef would cook the filet well done so D ended up with the filet au poivre. Both cuts were lovely and tasty looking.

We had a truly nice dinner Saturday. We all left happy. We then made our way over to our new most favorite spot, Bar C. Saturday it was really so crowded, we were turned away. Jas, the beautiful hostess, asked for our number and did we mind going to a bar down the street? She would call us when a table opened. I am a huge fan of a place that will not accept too many customers. She would only take what they had seating room for. Fortunately for us, after a quick trip to the ladies room, a table opened up immediately. We hung around Bar C til closing. It turns into a very upscale karaoke bar after the kitchen closes. Again, a high man-to-woman ratio, but this a very gentile crowd. Everyone was polite and jovial, there were two French maids, lost of singing and swilling of drinks. Hurrah! A perfect Saturday night.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Bar C: Mixed Metaphors in Honda Plaza

Our very good friend R introduced D to this new spot in Little Tokyo one week when I was visiting glamorous Hemet, CA. Bar C is such an amalgamation of themes, ideas and archetypes I am at a bit of a loss to describe it. I will let some of the pictures do the talking.

Bar C is located in Honda Plaza, right next to Sushi Gen & Ka Gai Ya, in that bar space that has been open and closed unceremoniously through the last few years. The entry way above is a sneak peak into what lies beyond.

What lies beyond is a red velvet playhouse, a little naughty and a little nice. There is a long bar with very comfy red velvet stools, and a long banquet against the side wall with shiny black tables. In between each section of the banquet are curtains that the hostess will offer to draw closed for you (I am assuming in case of any desired naughtiness). We left our curtains open so we could do some serious people watching. Bar C is a cross of Japanese and U.S fetishism. It is a composite of nightclub and restaurant. It is a hybrid between a lounge and a hostess bar. The clientele are well heeled, young and hip looking folk (mostly men, I think it would be unfair to not mention). This is some great people watching. The first evening I was there, the owner was sitting with guests eating and drinking wine, dressed in geisha costume right down to the makeup and shoes. (The image was spoiled by catching her hanging out later near the kitchen, chatting on her cell phone, LOL.)

Bar C has a lovely wine list, heavy on the dear end. I would love to publish some of the higher end wines they carry, but I cannot find a website to reference. But some of the wines are beautifully displayed behind the bar with a lovely balloon glass collection, a full bar and a mouth watering choice of sake. At the far end of the fun bar is a tall bronze statue of a Greek goddess, who is actually a water fountain, sexily dripping from her extremities...

Presentation is everything at C Bar. One of our servers was dressed Japanese fetish style as a sexy French maid with stay-up fishnets, high heels and a flower in her hair. Similar to the cosplay folks in Japan, she showed very little in the way of skin, but was nevertheless a completely entertaining and friendly sex kitten. I didn't take a photo of any of the characters that passed my line of sight, I am just not comfortable taking pics of people during their leisure time. Trust me, and use your imagination. She was serving the chef's menu to the owner and her guests at an end table, using this adorable little cart for every course. We chatted with her quite a bit and she said she loves to serve on the cart to enhance the French maid concept, but it becomes difficult on busy Friday and Saturday nights to navigate through the crowds.

On to the food!

The decor and environment might be more than a little unorthodox, but the food was really delicious. The menu is continental-inspired and diverse without being overwhelming. C Bar is called a Tapas bar, yet there is nothing resembling Spanish cuisine on the menu. Rather than small plates, I would describe the menu as appetizer heavy. There is also a section of different fondues, and a short pasta section, all which are decidedly NOT small plates. We started with sashimi ceviche. This plate featured tuna, yellowtail, salmon and scallops in an ever-so-slightly citrusy and shoyu sauce with ribbons of green onion.

We also immediately ordered the sashimi salad, always a favorite of mine, dressed very lightly, with the same cuts of fish as the ceviche and small chunks of crusty garlic bread.

This was one of may favorite dishes of the evening. Fresh tomatoes, sliced and diced with garlic and onions and large wide expanses of proscuitto. Look at the carrots, cut into cute little hearts!

After the above, out came the egg custard with enoki & shiitake mushrooms, prawns and foie gras paste. It was a beautiful, soupy little dish. I didn't taste the foie, but my taste buds might have been a little dulled from the acidity of the marinade on the ceviche and the dressing on the salad. Tonight, I will start with this first. (Yay! I am going back tonight!)

We also shared one of the pasta dishes. This was a giant tortellini stuffed with enoki mushrooms and topped with very lean, lightly breaded pork cutlets, with a slight drizzle of a potato-cream sauce. One of the things I love about Continental inspired Japanese food is that the chefs don't typically go overboard with the things about Continental food I dislike; the heavy creams, buttery sauces and preparations, and well, just doing too much to the food. These things seem to be added like significant accessories rather than being the main show. (I apologize for the blurriness of the following photo, I couldn't quite get this right.) This was my least favorite dish. I didn't find any of the flavors distinctive enough. The texture of the pasta was nice, but there was nothing bright on the plate.

For some reason, D decided he wanted to try one other dish. He ordered the beef tataki, which came with the same diced and slightly dressed tomatoes. It was lovely, but I was way too full to nosh any more.

As we were finishing up, our favorite French maid strolled past with Kobe beef tartar on her adorable little cart for the owner's table in the corner. The presentation of this was beautiful.

I want to add that we were attended to the entire evening not just by our waitress, but also by two very beautiful and buxom hostesses. Both moved around the room, attending to guests and drinking wine with them. And a little later in the evening, after half the bar did a shot together, the French maid did a little table dance. She shimmied all over the bar, moving and singing along with Madonna circa 1985. She was absolutely adorable.

The schema of Bar C was clearly conceived to appeal to men, but in all honestly I had a fabulous time. The hostesses were just as friendly and sweet to me as they were to all the other clients, and I will be happy to make this one of my favorite spots in town when I am looking for something a little more exotic.

Monday, July 7, 2008

Stearns. Lake Havasu, Arizona.

Our best friends moved to Lake Havasu, Arizna to take over a teeny tiny little pizzeria and bar called Santiago's. J & D have taken the remodeling one small step at a time, and after several visits over the last two years I can finally now honestly say that the remodel is complete and it is fantastic on so many levels. After about 6 months they renamed the little pit stop Stearn's, started slapping on paint and wood paneling and corrugated steel everywhere, and so on.

After awhile, they put up a passel of decent televisions, and partnered with a kick ass jukebox, the bar is a great place to hang, watch sports, and sip a cold cocktail late into the evening watching the people come and go.

One afternoon during our Fourth of July, 2008 trip to the outer circle of hellatious heat, I decided I needed to stop in and taste all the things the boys had added to the menu. They have kept the really, honestly good pizza they inherited when they came, with some slightly more exotic additions like *gasp* lots of veggies and *omg* roasted garlic. But they have also added to the menu lots of crowd pleasers and midwestern specialities that belie Flick's Indianan roots. One of the crowd pleasers is the easy and fresh prawn cocktail. It's simple, it's good, it's lean protein and it ain't fried.

And that's about where that story ends. They have on the menu a smashingly delicious white bean and chicken chili, which can be ordered with or without cheese and a spring garden full of onions. This stuff is really, really good. Maybe my favorite thing on the menu.

Another common and mouth watering appetizer on the menu are simple jalapeno poppers. Nothing earth shattering here, but they taste good and the cheese inside is very cheddary, and the peppers are just spicy enough.

Deep fried dill pickles. What the hell? Apparently Flick ate these somewhere at some time and the idea of it just stuck with him. He uses good quality pickles, quarters them and dips them in a homemade batter. My D loved these and must have gone through 8 orders throughout the weekend. He likened them to a fried green tomato, with that a slight al dente crispness in the very middle but with the tart tangyness of a pickle. How do California bars throughout the state miss out on serving these?

The last appetizer I sampled were the hot wings. You may not know this, and few people do, but I harbor a major hot wing fetish. Major. Victoria Beckham major. Not the deep fried kind, but the kind in any kind of BBQ sauce. I could eat hot wings and nothing else for dinner 3 or more nights a week, as long as no one else is watching. At Stearn's these are offered three different ways. In classic Frank's Red Hot sauce, in Stearn's Secret BBQ, and the third and most gastronomically challenging, Stearn's Have-a-Burn sauce. This sauce is challenging because it is at the same time tart, sweet, tangy and spicy. When I first put one in my mouth I had no idea where the flavor was going to head. After a couple minutes, my mouth stopped panicking and I really started to enjoy the taste. It never got too too hot, and the flavor settled a little. This is a complicated homemade sauce. First, they caramelize brown sugar and balsamic vinegar. Later they add three kinds of hot sauce (red & green tabasco & tapatillo) with apple cider vinegar, lime and lemon juice and a healthy amount of garlic, along with who knows what else. I wish they sold these frozen to grocery store chains. I would keep these in my freezer at all times.

For an entree, I tried the Newburgh Pig Sandwich. This is a BBQ pulled pork sandwich on grilled wheat bread. I ordered it open face so I could really see what was happening with the pig. Now, I don't really understand pulled pork. I was surprised at how much BBQ sauce seasoned the lean pork. It was delicious, but for some reason I was expecting a slightly dryer meat. Upon further research, recipes, food sites, pages dedicated to southern BBQ, I find that there are many ways to approach pulled pork and a lot of them include heaps of BBQ sauce. That's what you're gonna get at Stearn's, with melted cheese and red onions.

My second entree, LOL, were the baby back ribs. These ribs are cooked the same basic way that the pulled pork is, but without quite so much sauce, and obviously it is a different cut of meat. Both are boiled/broiled in pints of Full Moon Ale and BBQ sauce in a deep pan under the broiler, until the meat is literally falling off the bone. I look forward to coming to Stearn's again later this year and ordering these ribs as my only entree (following, of course, the hot wings).

Stearn's has a full bar and they pour the drinks nice and strong. And Flick has a well thought out collection of draft and bottled beers, something for everyone.

We were done eating. We were SO done eating. We planned to never eat again. And Flick brought out something special, with a nice little kick. He brought us out one of Grandma Flick's gigantic pancakes, seasoned lightly with nutmeg and cinnamon, and (for those 21+) a shot of Bailey's Irish Cream. These pancakes are the physical embodiment of the concept of nom.

Nom. Nom. Nom.