Friday, July 31, 2009

Whole Lotta Dog Love at Bark n' Bitches on Fairfax

Bark n' Bitches
505 N. Fairfax Ave
Los Angeles, CA 90189
(323) 655-0155
Bark n' Bitches Yelp

This is a store that puts their time and money where their mouth is with regard to rescue dogs. Bark n' Bitches keeps between 4 and 6 adoptable dogs at a time housed in their beautiful store ready for adoption. The owner picks dogs up from one of 3 shelters, grooms them, houses them and cares for and feeds them until someone adopts each and every one.

I'd like you to meet an adorable terrier whose name I cannot remember. A dog like this could change my mind about small dogs. She was so interactive and friendly.

And Hannah.

Below is Sundance.

I was completely enamored of Sundance.

And Zooey, who would not stand still long enough to snap a good pic of her beautiful face.

My two amazingly smart, fun and loving god children having fun with one of the free-roaming hounds.

We were just strolling past Bark n' Bitches with time to kill, when I decided to shop for a dog bed for Jackson.

The three of us spent time with all the dogs and Lauren, the cool chick running the store and trouble shooting. While we were there, a good Samaritan from a gas station called. One of their recently adopted out dogs had been found with a Bark n' Bitches dog tag on its collar running the streets near a local gas station. When she closed up shop in 10 minutes, her first priority was to run down and get the dog at the gas station and bring it back to the store.

In addition to spending their time and money doing much needed & never ending dog rescue work here in Los Angeles, this indie shop carries some of the coolest merchandise I have ever seen at actually very fair prices. (Compared to the closest indie shop to me in Silverlake, whose prices are akin to highway robbery.) Here are some shots of merchandise that caught my eye.

Artsy elevated feeding station.

V cool highly elevated feeding station...Daisy would have loved this. It looks like it was made out of an old (v old) soda fountain. I have never seen anything cooler. This is industrial art.

Requisite fluffy toys.

Carrying cases for the small dog minded.

The selection of collars is gob stopping. I bought Jackson a lovely black leather collar studded with steel stars. I am not sure he is cool enough for it, but we are going to give it a whirl. If you look closely, some of them look like Western tooled leather belts, some with Swarofski crystals, soft leather with delicate metal studding like a Calleen Cordero sandal, and so on.

Above is another item I caved on, antlers found on the ground during antler shedding season. Then boiled and sanded and ready for weeks worth of chewing.

I took home the big bed on top for my special canine, the black one with white bones. The top is made from very short sheared sheep skin. As soon as I set it on the floor, Jackie lay down on it and wouldn't move. He has been suffering a poorly filled and sized Target bed recently, and I think he was communicating something along the lines of, "It's about damn time you got me a decent bed, you ingrates."

Change. Save a life. Adopt.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Delicious, Surprising, Disturbing...Ludobites

Ludobites at Breadbar
8718 West 3rd Street
Los Angeles, CA 90048
310 205 0124
Through August 22, 2009

Hating the fact that even on my days off my body insists on waking me up at the ungodly hour of 5:45 AM, what else is there to do but write about last night's dinner? This week my BFF/ex-roommate is in town from London and we always eat well together. I knew we would have a special experience if I took her to Ludobites during the last few weeks of Ludo Lefebvre's engagement there. Seemingly for my amusement, H's sister R decided to come with us for a girls' night out. I don't think I have ever had more fun dining with someone than R. She experienced that dinner with such gusto...previously unbeknownst to me, this is a woman who will try anything. If it isn't right the first time, she will rearrange elements on the plate until she finds a combo with the ingredients that does work, and if it is right the first time she will lick the plate clean. Yay!

We started the evening with this bottle of California sparkling wine. A reliably good fizz for the price, Mom serves this at Thanksgiving to go with the Turkey and sometimes during the annual summertime Fried Chicken and Champagne Feast. Le sigh. I wish I lived closer to her food.

We perused the menu and had a star sighting. Shawn Pyfrom, Bree Van de Camp's son Andrew, was sitting back-to-back with R. We texted A to tell her, and initially she didn't care but rapidly decided she hated us for leaving her at home. Here is a pic of the back of his head, just for A. He's shorter than I imagined, but well made.

We started the meal on the lighter side, with some veg and soup. I wanted something green inside me, so I fell for the Green Beans, Peach, Coconut, Apple, Horseradish Lemongrass.

With al dente beans, surprising long shreds of fresh coconut, and small thin chunks of apple & peach, this dish was dressed with a lovely little horseradish lemongrass mousse.

H started us out with the chilled soup, Chorizo, Cantaloupe, Cornichons. This was maybe my favorite flavor of the evening. I ran into Mike from Pepsimonster at the door, and exchanging tweets later in the evening discovered this was one of his favorites too. He was sitting with L & A from the fish bones and karaoke evening in Little Tokyo a few weeks back, and their party of 6 ordered one of everything on the menu. One.of.everything. This soup was rich, a little like a bisque but not quite as thick. The flavor was totally saturated with chorizo, almost bacony. I thought the chunks of cantaloupe were gratuitous but only because I don't love cantaloupe. Normally I think melon and cured pork products are wonderful companions, thinking of honeydew and prosciutto. What was really delightful was the cornichon granita in the middle of the soup. Frozen vinegar and pickle. Naturally, the still very British R wants to bathe in this. Eat it on crackers, off crisps, or simply with her fingers. It was that good.

R dove in head first to the exotic, Snails, Spinach, Curry-Yogurt. The curry-yogurt was a little off putting for me when reading the menu. The only curry I love is a Thai curry. However, this was a curry-yogurt foam and didn't overtake the flavor/texture of the snails nor the spinach and heavy garlic coating said snails.

I have never seen a prettier dish.

I wanted to show how much pureed spinach there was under that foam, and how dense it was. After we finished the snails, R & I were scooping out every bit of spinachy goodness we could from the bottom and sides of the dish.

One perfect lone snail. Ludo has been twittering about these snails for days.

For the second round, H requested the Heirloom Tomato Salad, Red Onions, Feta Mousse, Oregano, Olives Niçoise. Niçoise, bishes. This is the best heirloom tomato salad I have had all season. It is one of two items still on the menu from the last time I ate with Ludo & wife. Les tomates were very fresh and retained a nice firmness. *snicker* H went ape shit for the feta mousse. She has a couple food allergies, and has trouble with dairy. I remember traveling the world and living together in our twenties as a painful tummy time for her and 100% respect her dietary needs. Since feta is not dairy from cows, she could indulge in this mousse, and now wants to know how to make it at home. I am going to work on this for her. I bet I can master it and send her the info. NOT the way I have mastered Sedlar's habanero caramel? No, much more masterfully. Caramel perfection eludes me.

The second item that remained the same on the menu from my previous visit is the oxtails and polenta. Creamy Polenta, Cantal Cheese, Oxtails, Black Truffle. Of the infamous twitter feed wherein the entire vat of oxtails was spilled on the floor one evening in the kitchen and several tweeters declared willingness to eat it from the floor, this dish is delicious. The truffle this time was more prominent than last. I am sure it is a truffle specific issue. Like onions, some truffles must be naturally more flavorful than others.

For the second round, R spoke for the duck. Duck Breast, Crispy Skin Puree, Carrot Cake Coulis, Pink Grapefruits, Orange Blossom Water, Baby Rainbow Carrots. The right side of this plate was amazingly sweet, warm, savory, fatty duckness.

The left side, the side with the beautiful baby carrots, was overwhelmed by the fragrance of the orange blossom water. I normally love orange blossom water and fragrance. However, this heavy handidness overwhelmed the delicate carrots. I cried to see them go, but couldn't eat a second carrot. The duck was wonderful, and would have been better accompanied by simple buttered baby carrots. But where's the fun in that?

I caved on the Foie Gras Black Croque-Monseiur, Ham, Cherry Tomatoes, Amaretto. Hard to go wrong with ingredients this deliciously decadent. However, the bread was too crispy, a hair short of burnt. Shamelessly tossing the bread to the side, I nommed on the delicious guts, the liver contrasting nicely with the crispy ham and unmelted cheese. Now, here's the thing. In a Croque-Monsieur (or Madame) the cheese is supposed to be melted and the bread is supposed to be soft enough still to bite with your teeth. The ingredients down to the swirl of berry jam were incomparable, but the execution was a little off.

Last night was a crazy decadent food orgy with two of my favorite women on the planet who I just don't see often enough. My regular readers know I am not a dessert fan, however, how could I say no to spending another 45 minutes and another gastronomic adventure with my two beautiful companions. I could not and promptly ordered the Chocolate Cupcake, Foie Gras Chantilly, Candied Bacon Almonds, Maple Syrup. It's not my fault. Folie-a-Choisauce told me to. Looking at her blog right now quickly, a current tweet there describes pornographically (kinda) her love for the chocolate foe cupcake.

"@PepsiMonster those two were my absolute favs. I mean wowMOMwow!! that cupcake is easily my new fav dessert in the city"

Both beautiful and disturbing.

H loved the cake part of the cupcake, and actually liked the candied bacon almonds. She declared the foie gras chantilly disturbing. Creepy, even. She was a little afraid to sit at the same table as the still unfinished dessert. She subtly scooted back her stool and reached for the mace.

I was surprised at the chantilly. It was so foie. The texture was marvelously light and creamy, and the foie flavor was so strong. This is an unusual and intriguing dessert. I might need to try it again to decide how I really feel about something so dangerous.

Vanilla Panna Cotta, Caramel, Caviar. R had her eyes on this one immediately. Not a fan of caviar though, she was a little shy about how to tackle this. I dove in and relieved some of the caviar from its duty. She worked her way around the caviar, eating the simple panna cotta and perfect GD caramel. Eventually, the only thing left on the plate was some caviar and a great pool of caramel. So, she scooped some of both up with a spoon.

Ever so slightly fishy salted caramel!!! Brilliant!

Last night was a slightly less perfect meal than last time, flavor wise. (Company wise it will not be topped, ever, until Friday.) However, I have never had food this adventurous, this surprising...this occasionally disturbing. No one else is making food like this, anywhere that I know of. This kicks the ass of molecular gastronomy like the archetypal schoolyard cigarette smoking bully pummeling the spindly class mathlete with a pencil protector all up and down the middle school hallways. Everything is inventive without so much pretense, so many machinations. Every single ingredient is perfection on its own. (We watched the produce delivery for the next day some traipsing through the restaurant at approximately 9:15 PM.) Not that there weren't a couple of miss steps here and there, but there will always be miss steps on the path to perfection. And that perfect caramel still haunts me this morning.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Another Visit to A.O.C.

8022 W 3rd St
Los Angeles, CA 90048-4307
(323) 653-6359

Because A.O.C. calls itself a wine bar, I will lead with the wine. We pulled into A.O.C. the other night after running some errands south of the 10, and for the first time that I can remember there was serendipitously room for two at the bar. I ordered directly from the special flights a trio of whites from the Lompoc wine ghetto just north of us in Santa Barbara county. These whites were deliciously summery. Fruit forward, and not too sweet. I actually liked them best in order rather than progressively. The Palmina Tocai Firulani was my favorite.

Le Journal du Vine did a thorough tasting/journaling in the Lompoc ghetto a couple years back. Based on these wines, I would definitely hit that region for a convenient and low budget weekend tasting.

The menu at A.O.C. continues to excite. In the mood for veggies and fish, there were too many selections to choose from. I wished we were dining with more people. Shrimp, salmon, trout and mussels, it all looked delicious. In advance, please excuse the iPhone pics. Making an attempt to be spontaneous, I headed out without my camera. I am sure even with my G9 the pics would have been mediocre due to the very yellow mid range light quality. The lighting at A.O.C. is really not interesting for food shots.

Food wise, we were jump started with simple white crusty bread and a pepper tapenade. The texture and flavor felt and tasted like roasted bell peppers with something spicy (red pepper flakes maybe?) and lots of rich olive oil. I am not a huge fan of the bell pepper, but D gobbled this down and decreed it yummy.

D has transformed overnight in a pâté eater. From the charcuterie menu for an hors d'ouevres, he ordered us chicken liver crostini with pancetta. Fancy! Atop two long slices of slightly oily grilled bread, the chicken pâté was spread generously and topped by a bacony piece of pancetta with the entire dish topped with lightly dressed frisée. This was probably my favorite dish of the night. I am, of course, a fan of organ meat anyway. This one was a nice rendition, not as fatty as my favorite chicken liver mousse at BLT, and I was thrilled to watch the order for pâté generate from my manly dining companion.

I do love the way food comes out of the kitchen at A.O.C. We ordered one-for-one in terms of course, they came out nevertheless one-by-one to share instead of side by side. Enforced sharing. I like it. The service at A.O.C. is always so good, I am sure they would deliver the food however you ask for it. Above is the requisite summertime heirloom tomato and burrata salad with balsamic and crunchy croutons with broad flat leaf parsley. Ubiquitous that night, this flat leaf parsley was a delicious addition to several items we noshed on. Big herbaceous flavor from those broad flat leaves. This salad, and the one to follow, in my opinion were a little overdressed. With delicious burrata, summertime heirlooms fat and ripe, and all that parsley, dressing should be a slight addition to the flavor not so overpowering.

My salad came out second. Beets with feta, cucumbers and yogurt. I cannot resist savory food with yogurt, and I liked this combo. The yogurt was hiding on the bottom of the dish, so I found myself really scooting things around to evenly coat each beet with cumminy spiced Persian yogurt. The cukes were almost an afterthought in the dish because they were sliced tiny...I think I kind of avoided them. Cucumbers and feta are a winning flavor combination though, and this dish left the bar clean.

Later we shared a carafe of something wonderful. I have no clue what it was, D would remember but he's asleep. I do love a carafe.

My entree was the humongous Gulf shrimp with tomato butter and cornbread. It sounds better in theory than it actually was. At both A.O.C. and Hungry Cat, although I know they are cheffed by different people, there is a tendency toward serving shellfish in their exoskeletons. Removing the proteins from the shell themselves, clients are treated to an experience both sophisticated and earthy. While I am not the most sophisticated person on the planet, I am not the earthiest either. The times I ate at Killer Shrimp I ordered my shrimps shelled for the extra couple clams. I prefer my arthropods sans shells. The tomato butter did not taste as saturated with tomatoeyness as I thought it would, and the effect was greasier than I had imagined.

Again, the yummy flat leaf parsley. Mediterranean style, A.O.C.'s food is not known for being light. There are certainly light choices on the menu, but I found 3/5 of the plates we ate to be overly oily or overtly greasy. The flavors in the shrimp dish were good, just not great. I liked the grilled crispy cornbread but sitting in the tomato butter it absorbed a lot of fat. The small piece of cornbread was pretty much drenched by the time it hit my lips, which compromised some of the grittiness I love in a cornbread.

The last dish of the evening was conversely quite dry. Halibut with salt cod, underneath there somewhere, sorrel and garlic. This dish was good, but the fish itself was rather dry. I would have liked a little more salt cod to squish around with the halibut. Flavors were nice though.

It was a treat to eat casually at the bar at A.O.C. , despite the aggressive "young attorneys mating conversation" in my left ear and one aggressive attorney elbow continually knocking my arm and fleshy breast region. The seats to their left were empty. What is it about property west of La Brea that makes people stand their ground at bars so firmly? It's a strange phenomena oft noted by myself and constantly present company. Some day I am going to have words with someone about how easy and polite it is to share space when there is space available.

At any rate, the times I have been to A.O.C. previously we always planned ahead, got a reservation, ate at a table and the bar was always packed out. This week the bartenders attended to us beautifully in temperament and service. I also really enjoyed the wine list, thank goodness being that this is a wine bar. There are so many selections to choose from at several price levels. I highly prize this at any restaurant and especially at self-proclaimed wine bars. The food could have been better, but nothing could be called bad per se. I just don't think I will hurry across town to eat at A.O.C. again soon with so many other offerings in my immediate neighborhoods both springing up and thriving. But it was a treat to visit again and find things still very much the same as the last visit.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Plate by Plate 7th Annual Tasting Event to Benefit Asian Pacific Islander Small Business Program

Coming up next Saturday at the California Science Center is a food & drinks benefit for Product by Product. Product by Product is a national volunteer organization of social entrepreneurs that serves Asian-American non-profits in need by raising public awareness, volunteerism and capitol. Each year, local chapters of Product by Product choose a community based organization and tailors a year-long campaign to help its fund raising, community outreach, and public awareness efforts. This year the Southern California chapter is working with the Asian Pacific Islander Small Business Program to work with.

The Asian Pacific Islander Small Business Program (API SBP) was established in 1999 to deliver individual counseling and workshop training to low income Asian immigrant populations in Los Angeles. In 2008, API SBP served more than 2500 entrepreneurs!

API SBP serves its clients in Spanish, English, and six Asian languages, providing free individual business counseling and an extensive array of business workshops and courses. API SBP provides guidance to its clients in business plans, loan applications, and other forms of access to capital, basic business preparation, franchise acquisition, etc. Many of its workshops are presented in alliance with business organizations and other community partners, as a way of strengthening the communities in which API SBP works. All of API SBP's program geographies are focused in low/moderate income census tracts. API SBP also provides an entrepreneurial financial literacy program for low income adults co-sponsored by the United Way of LA, which provides modest financial incentives to program participants.


Hosted by Project by Project to Benefit the Asian Pacific Islander Small Business Program (API SBP)

On Saturday, August 1, 2009, from 7:00 pm to 10:00 pm, Project by Project will be hosting the Seventh Annual Tasting Benefit called Plate by Plate in Los Angeles, California. All net proceeds from the admission and auction purchases of the event will benefit the Asian Pacific Islander Small Business Program to help the organization strengthen its foundation and mission to assist the development of Asian and Pacific Islander small and micro businesses in Los Angeles, especially those of low income immigrants of Chinese, Korean, Japanese, Thai, and Filipino communities.

Over 30 chefs from many of the Southland's finest New American, international, and fusion restaurants join with exceptional vintners, brewers, and distillers from around the world to bring attendees a midsummer night's dream of savory and mouth-watering food and fun. While having the fill of delicious drinks, divine dishes, and delectable desserts, guests will find celebrities in attendance and will be able to take in the live entertainment on stage. There is also a stellar silent auction for attendees to bid on the unique experiences from exclusive cooking lesson, special dining package, airline tickets to chic products. For the consummate experience, upgrade to a VIP ticket and enjoy access to a private area and reception featuring exclusive tastings and entertainment.

Featured Restaurants:

BottleRock Downtown
XIV by Michael Mina
Mendocino Farms and Scoops.
Bon Appetit at the Getty Center,
Citizen Smith
Michael Cordon Bleu
Jamaica's Cakes
The Bazaar by Jose Andres
Michel Cordon Bleu
Sno:LA Yogurt
Vanille de Patisserie
Sweet Temptation Co
Good Girl Dinette
Park on 6th and many more.

Plate by Plate
Saturday, August 1 , 2009 from 7-9 pm
Wallis Annenberg Building at the California Science Center
700 State Drive
Los Angeles, CA 90037

Tickets can be purchased for Plate by Plate by clicking here!

Friday, July 24, 2009

One Night in DTLA: A Photo Essay

Trying to be good about not drinking and driving, being good to the environment and embarking on new adventures, we have been enjoying the bus taking so far this summer. We stroll down our hill to Sunset and catch a bus heading toward downtown or toward the beach.

Here the Limited bus passes us by...

and as the sun starts to set a little on our hood, out transport to fun slowly pulls up to the stop.

Hop on the bus, Gus.

Yeah, sometimes when taking the bus we will get about halfway or far enough to where we need to transfer and if a cab comes along we will just hop in for convenience sake. You can take the man away from the car, but you cannot take car tendencies away from the man. It's still good for the environment though, right? I mean, the cab would be driving around empty anyway if we weren't in it, right? Wrong. This is not the way supply and demand work. It is the way justification for behavior works.

Pulling up in Little Tokyo, we are early. We decide to swing by Wine Bar C to visit Jazz. Lo and behold, Calbi is parked outside. Yes, it looks suspiciously like another Korean BBQ taco truck we all know and, well know. We all know what truck I am talking about. However, there is no long line. D gets some food anyway because we are going to eat small plates with a group, so he has to front load that food adventure by assuaging his hunger first.

I stroll into the kitschy and much loved Bar C to order some drinkseses...

Ice cold sake. D will inevitably pour the decanter the wrong way spilling ice water all over the bar. This magic trick has yet to fail. I am waiting for the day he gets it right and we have a dry clean bar in front of us when we leave. *waits*

We sample the tacos. Lettuce heavy and sauce light.

These were pretty durn tasty. The sauce is very different than "those who shall not be named". A little thinner, but equally savory and delicious. We tried chicken and beef, and both were very good. I have yet to wait long for Korean BBQ tacos, as luck has been in my favor every time I have ventured out seeking the food of "those who shall remain nameless in this post". I am not sure how long I would wait for these, maybe 10 minutes. I have no line aversion. But I am looking forward to trying the food from some of the many other gastro-truck offerings in the Southland. Ice cream, french fries, sushi, and so on. You know.

Nevertheless, our trip to Bar C is somewhat in vain because neither Jazz nor Yumi work there anymore. I do not see more trips there in my near future. Those two, their welcoming natures and the party they were able to generate at a moment's notice were the main draw.

We move on to meet friends around the corner at Izayoi. We met MAG, with whom I have been carrying on an internet friendship for months. We also met several of her friends and had a great time. Izayoi was celebrating their anniversary and booze was half off. HALF OFF! We consumed some serious amounts of sake and Kirin. Turns out, the best bar snack to accompany copious amounts of beer and sake is deep fried fish bones. And about 6 plates of them. It looks like some kind of prehistoric Trader Joe's snack for neanderthalithic yuppies. Fish bones, good.

Eventually we did leave, and things seemed to go south as soon as we walked out the door. In good ways and bad. There were more drinks, karaoke, a possible bar fight (words were exchanged) and banishment from said karaoke bar. No dancing or jumping? WTF?

Not sure if it was the beautiful summer night, the fish bones, or the bus. But this was one of those nights when one forgets their age and their mortality. Everyone is 23 again, and we owned the universe. Until we took a cab home and went to bed, all before 11 pm.