Monday, July 26, 2010

Photo Essay: L.A. Flea Market at Dodger Stadium

Dodger Stadium
1000 Elysian Park Ave
Los Angeles, CA 90012
(323) 224-1500
Please see link for dates.

I'm starting this post out with images of the vintage area of the flea market. Vintage clothing, furniture, jewelry and such have been a life long obsession.  In my twenties I dressed close to exclusively in vintage head-to-toe, worked at a vintage clothing store and spent much of my time scouring the scungiest local thrift stores for something amazing that would have cost a fortune at a real vintage boutique. I am shocked that I find myself longing for the days when I had more time than money.  If I only knew then there would come a day when the roles were reversed and the grass on the other side of that fence would look much much greener.  Le sigh.


This display reminds me of Cheap Thrills, the store I worked at in Sacramento. Located in a run down Victorian house, we cluttered the front porch with insane looking mannequins in outrageous outfits. Sadly, they have since moved into a smaller space which has cost them some of their 1980's 21st Street glory.

Fell in love with this, should have bought it.

Wedding dresses.

Shabby chic, a decorating look that definitely had its day in my life, but now long gone.

Sheer cotton vintage dress with dingy Chucks. Loves.

Requisite new things for people who prefer to buy the unowned. Tupperware. I long for a complete set of Tupperware. Somehow, my cupboards are full of the disposable plastic ware that is popular these days. Doesn't have quite the same panache,

Cheap hotel art. Art that belongs in a cheap hotel, not saying the art itself is cheap.

The sacred.

The profane.

As a dog lover, I was thrilled dogs on leash were allowed in. I was saddened that it was so hot every single dog I saw was trying to find a shady spot on the pavement.  The little pads on their sweet paws must have been on fire. This guy came running out from under the car to give me a good tongue lashing which lasted all but 4 seconds before he ran back to save his feet from the brutally hot tarmac.

Their music was very decent countrified rock, and the boys were so adorable I could barely take my eyes off of them.

Climbing wall.


And the food.  I had been wanting to try Fishlips Sushi forevers.

Celebrating their One Year Anniversary!

The fish was fresh enough but the flavors were meh,

Debbie Lee's Ahn-Joo was off the hook deliciousness. 

I know gastro trucks are no longer a new phenomena, and these days I do not go out of my way to seek out food from them. I am lazy and don't like to wait in line.  But the food we ate from Ahn-Joo was so delicious I would definitely stalk this truck all over town to try everything they make. Best food from a food truck I have eaten since Kogi pre-Kogi debacle.

Kim chee maki.  Rice cooked perfectly, just sticky enough and in no way soggy.  Kim chee and tamago wrapped lovingly into slightly oversized maki. The dipping sauce you see there actually came with the salad you see below.

Korean style beef salad with spicy pickled cucumbers. D and I inhaled this, almost coming to fisticuffs over the last bites. (Not really, but I love the term fisticuffs).  Debbie Lee herself was front and center of the truck, and she helped me choose my items. Rooting for her during her season of The Next Food Network Star, I was thrilled to chat with her. She liked my dress. :-D

I wanted a few balls from the audaciously monikered Meat Our Balls, but they had closed up shop by the time we got there. (About 3 PM).

The Ludo truck was serving up Ludo's infamous fried chicken, their business was slow and steady.

I loved the way the Dosa truck was decorated.

21st Century karma.

I didn't even consider standing in line at the Border Grill truck, even though I adore Susan Feniger for how kind she was to my very pregnant chef stalkerazzi friend K.

Pizza by the slice at the Slice Truck.

And that's about all she wrote.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Church & State After Manzke

Church & State
1850 Industrial St
Los Angeles, California 90021
(213) 405-1434

I am pretty much 100% sure that gorgeous < $40 bottle of French red wine we drank last night contained at least 8 glasses, or at least my head is sure this morning. Nevertheless, I am happy to report Church & State, post-Manzke is operating on full cylinders. With maybe one tiny exception.

Foremost, above and beyond the food, I have never had better service at Church & State.  Despite being slammed with both reservations and walk-ins, the host gave us very good care. We stalked seats at the bar for awhile before giving the host our names for a table, then annoyed the wait staff by standing in their station and customers by hovering over them hoping they would leave before finally going outside to sit at the long communal table to enjoy the night air while waiting it out.

Everyone behind the bar including the tender, bar back and sommelier were very attentive.  Tasting a few wines before deciding on one (having had a sweet drink at the Villains opening night did not help my palate one bit), the bar back humored me more by letting me try three or four, even following me around with a new glass while I wandered throughout the bar saying hi to people we know. He is awesome. Finally the sommelier had us taste something that was full bottle worthy (I didn't know we were buying a magnum, for crying out loud).

Above, the supposedly 750 ml offending bottle of deliciousness.

As we strolled outside to enjoy the evening and conversation with not-so-strange strangers, I asked the host to let us know if seats opened at the bar before a table. He not only let us know, he guarded the open seats with his life. Several people tried to grab those precious stools and he saved them.  For us. Loves him.

The food.
Frisee au Lardons: Perfection. Perfect amount of slightly wilted frisee in a warm acidic vinaigrette, lots of lardons chunks and a soft boiled egg to write home about. This is the standard to which all frisee au lardons salads should beholden to.

Steak Tartare: The one hiccup in the evening.  Over-processed, in my opinion. The steak seemed to me to be cut in a food processor instead of by hand, although I wasn't in the kitchen. But the chunks were very uniform in texture and just too small. The outcome was a little mushy although the flavors were nice.

Pomme Frites: Substantial, crisp, slightly puffy on the inside. The perfect size, larger than shoestring, much smaller than steak fries. I hazard to say they are about the same size as McDonald's fries but way tastier, no sogginess whatsoever.

Steak Frites: I mentioned the high quality of the frites above, but the quality of the cross cut New York state is excellent. Even cooked medium-well (D), it melted in your mouth like butta.

We had great company on the patio and at the bar. The quality of the service was really unsurpassed anywhere we have dined, which is an improvement because frankly the service at Church & State used to suck. And almost every morsel of French bistro food I inhaled was perfection. And then there was that deliciously naughty bottle of wine...

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Ramen Summer School: Spicy Miso Ramen at Home

My birthday is ridiculously close to Christmas. Because my day falls so close to the holiday, it is rarely celebrated the way some people celebrate, with annual dinner parties, BBQs and the like. Of course my dear dear dear husband, in an effort to make sure my holiday season is amazing, spoils me rotten every single year. Birthday/Christmas of 2009, he gifted me an avalanche of amazing cookbooks. Despite my ever growing library of all things culinary, I still, time and again, turn to blogs for food inspiration. Ramen summer school continues.

I am trying to focus on eating less meat this week, as my health/dietary challenge of the week. At the same time I am trying to learn more about ramen in its more authentic, less college-diet-of-champions form. One of my favorite things to do in the morning is lay in bed, in the dark, reading dozens of food blogs on my iPhone and planning my next home cooked meal or gastroniventure.  Monday's meal is a bastardization of a recipe found on Rasa Malaysia combined with a little twist from the Momofuku ramen broth recipe I drooled over at Food Hoe Files.  I did my evening shopping just a couple miles away at Little Tokyo Market Place. Little Tokyo Market is no Nijiya, Nijiya is more focused, a little tidier, a little prettier.  Bit Nijiya is all the way across town and to be honest, without comparing it to Nijiya, Little Tokyo Market Place totally rocks.

Shopping list:
hondashi (powdered dashi made with MSG & bonito flakes)
fresh summer corn
green onions
mild white miso paste
fresh ramen noodles
La-Yu chile oil
dried shiitake mushrooms

Many of the ramen recipes I have been spying have a hard boiled egg.  I like a yolk only slightly cooked so I poached mine, as seen above, with a little sherry vinegar (in retrospect I could have used mirin to inhibit feathering).  The twist I added to Rasa Malaysia's recipe from the Momofuku was boiling the dried shiitake mushrooms until they were rehydrated, leaving the umami essence from the mushrooms in the boiling water to get my broth off to the right start.

Chopped five green onions finely, including the whites. Shaved the kernels off the corn and sauteed until the outsides were slightly caramelized.


According to the recipe, I added 2 TBSP of miso per ramen serving to the mushroomy broth.  Next, .5 tsp hondashi, this is potent stuff. I let it simmer and reduce for awhile, concentrating the flavors. All the ramen recipes I have read call for ground sesame seeds.  I don't have a mortar and pestle, an absence that needs to be remedied stat. So I poured sesame seeds in whole. Last, 3 tsp La-Yu chile oil for the zing!

Ramen noodles cook quickly. Some blogs say to rinse the noodles to remove any traces of the flour that keeps the noodles from sticking together in the package, and some don't. I didn't bother. One serving of noodles into each of our bowls (godson N was over, playing music with D), poured a generous helping of broth over each.  All bowls were topped with almost an entire ear of corn, about 3/4 c green onions, one poached egg and a couple shiitake mushrooms.

In no way does this approximate the quality of the bone based broth I ate at both Yatai at Breadbar or Daikokuya. However, Rameniac noted somewhere in the vast tomes of his ramania that many Japanese moms make their ramen using hondashi, or some other MSG soup base.  If it's good enough for a Japanese housewife, it's good enough for me. And it was derishasu.

There was one entire serving of ramen left over, and I'll be damned if I didn't have it for brunch the next day.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Ramen Summer School: Daikokuya

327 E 1st Street
Los Angeles, CA 90012
TEL: (213) 626-1680

What is this Ramen Summer School I have been going on about in my blog and Twitter feed?  Our good friend R has inspired my obsession with all things ramen this season, and when we're talking about something Japanese (food especially), it doesn't take much to get me going.  This caucasian girl from the Northern California suburbs knows precious little about ramen. My knowledge before this year (more or less) was limited to the 25 cent packs of Maruchan dried ramen from the soup aisle in warehouse grocery stores back in my salad days. The times, they are a changin'.

Late late late last Saturday night D and I hit Daikokuya for bowls of their iconic ramen. He ordered for me. One steaming giant white bowl of spicy miso ramen.  See the above description of all the ingredients. I was initially impressed by the boast of boiling pork bones and joints all through the night, which as we know extracts the collagen making the tonkatsu  broth rich and wonderful. Kurobuta pork belly is a phrase that always makes my mouth water. Green onion, egg and sprouts just add to the delicious promise.

The only real ramen experience I have to compare this to is my meal at Breadbar's Yatai a couple weeks back. I have been informed by several people that Yatai is in no way a typical ramen experience, and lots of tweets and blog posts disdain the flavors coming out of Breadbar's  kitchen at this event. However, I found the broth in my bowl of oxtail ramen to be far headier, rich, deep, dark and sexy...layers and layers of flavors.  The broth in my ramen at Daikokuya was much simpler, lighter in texture, in flavor, in oil. I am in no way saying Daikokuya's bowl was not delicious, it was wonderful. I squirreled away my leftovers for brunch the next day.  While almost as good the next morning, I was disappointed to see a lack of gelatin in my broth.  The cold broth had not gellified in the slightest as it cooled, which made me question the claim of the hours long boiling of pork bones. In my experience, cooking and eating in my mom's kitchen, a broth really made from bones will definitely gellify when cold.

This won't keep me away from Daikokuya, it's just a couple miles from my house and two of my favorite men are in love with their bowls.  But it will definitely drive me to continue the search for my favorite ramen bowl. Blogging friends Gourmet Pigs and Exile Kiss have both generously shared their list of favorites and I cannot wait to dig in.

NBA Playoffs at The Mixing Room, JW Marriott L.A. Live

JW Marriott at L.A. Live
The Mixing Room
900 West Olympic Blvd
Los AngelesCA 90015
(213) 742-6855

The Mixing Room at the JW Marriott downtown at LA Live is a good option for watching major sports events we discovered during the Western Conference NBA playoffs (Lakers won, BTW). Lots of loungey chaise style couches, tall comfy bar stools, big flat screen TVs behind the bar, and a small plates menu to have fun with.

From the JW Marriott website:

The Mixing Room

World class Mixology creating a dynamic infusion to the palet [sic].Small plate tasting menu.

We started with a quartet of deviled eggs, four different takes on a deviled egg. In the foreground, one topped with smoked salmon and caviar. In the middle, a crab and avocado puree, and another one toward the back featured salami & pimento.  These were all tasty, but nothing to write home about. When writing home about deviled eggs, I think of Chef Tracht's at Jar.  These were good, good enough to make a sports lover in search of upscale bar food pretty happy.

D nommed on a trio of tacos. To be honest, I have no recollection what was in these tacos, nor does he.  He remembers they were tasty if not particularly authentic.  

We shared a few beef meatball sliders, tomato sauce and Parmesan cheese.  Not bad but oversalted both in the meat and the sauce. Really oversalted. Too many chefs in the kitchen oversalted.

We also took a  nibble at some kielbasa style sausages in BBQ sauce.  I know sausage is by its very nature typically salty. I think after the salt-lick meatball sliders my mouth was on salt overload, and one bite of a savory sausage was the last straw on the camel's back. I just couldn't do it. Normally, I love sausage any way I can get it.

A+ for packaging. Apple pie in a brown bag, a la mode on the side. I was too stuffed to even taste it, but D said it was delicious with lots of brown sugar and a lovely crumbling crust.  Love love love the packaging.

All in all, I wouldn't make the Marriott Mixing Room a food destination, but I would definitely hit this again for sophisticated sports viewing, or even for drinks with friends before dinner downtown elsewhere.