Monday, August 23, 2010

Sunday Afternoon Experimentation: Cauliflower Steaks

Atwater Village Farmers' Market
Wells Fargo Parking Lot
3250 Glendale Blvd

Los AngelesCA 90039

Sunday morning found me motivated enough to head out the the Atwater Village Farmers' Market, a market small enough to quickly find parking and be easily navigated within 30 minutes from start to finish. Home within an hour including the drive there and back.  I picked up some of the usual suspects; Brussels sprouts, garlic, an onion, this and that, and two large heads of cauliflower. I love creative things done with cauliflower when dining out, and Sunday late morning had me lounging around while watching boatloads of tennis. I fingered I didn't have that small flat screen wall mounted in the kitchen for nothing. Off to Epicurious my mind and fingers wandered.

I found a gorgeous recipe for Cauliflower Steaks with a 94% would make again rating with 38 reviews. That's a solid standing statistics wise with a decent sampling size. FTW.  Bon Appetit 2008.

First, cut cauliflower head down the center into two large 1" thick "steaks".

Roughly chop remaining florets and cook to softness in a water and milk bath. Drain retaining one cup of the cooking liquid. Bake florets on cookie sheet at 250F until slightly dry.

Puree with cooking liquid in a blender (food processor) until smooth, set aside.

In an oven proof skillet, on stove top heat olive oil to sizzling temps, salt, pepper and add steaks searing both sides until brown.

Above see one side browned and flipped. I didn't use a skillet, I used one of my Le Creuset deep pans. I would use cast iron if I had.

Shove pan with browned steaks in oven at 350F until tender, about 10 minutes. Top with puree and garnish.  Gorgeous. 

I cooked this with 100% fidelity to the recipe and it was fantastic. I was pretty liberal with the salt and pepper. Next time, now that I understand the recipe (unlike this weekend's salmon rillette incident) I am going to mix it up. I think I will add something herbaceous or garlicky to the puree, and maybe even some dairy.  Parmesan cheese, perhaps. But the actual steaks are perfect as is. The gorgeous sear on them adds that umami-caramelized quality we love on the outside of our steaks at Mastro's and BLT. This is definitely a recipe that will get heavy rotation this year in kitchen FST.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Atlas Global Bistro, Detroit

Atlas Global Bistro
3111 Woodward Ave
Detroit, MI 48201
(313) 831-2241

I can honestly say I have never ever had a better meal than the meal we ate together at Atlas Global Bistro on our last night in Detroit.  Sometimes it's the hard work that makes you appreciate the food, and at times being away from home for long periods of time also speaks kindly for your meal. This time I considered maybe my awe and wonder at the poverty and dissolution that has become metropolitan Detroit  might be enhancing any even marginally civilized experience. But I like to think I am astute enough about food to know when I am in the presence of culinary greatness, and Chef Christian Borden is a great chef.

J started with a simple green salad, fresh and crisp despite the somewhat ineffective air conditioning in the room. Baby lettuce, croutons, grana parma, tomato and onion in a vinaigrette.  

V and I share a similar palate, we are almost always drawn to the same things on a menu so we shared appetizers and mains, we like richness countered by umami in almost all things, except cocktails.

One of our appetizers was the seared Essex County mushrooms.  The portion above looks small, but it was very nicely sized. There's a good pile of seared mushrooms under the wilted pea tendrils and sesame seeds, deglazed with soy vinegar with a few chunks of water chestnuts hiding in there somewhere.

V and I were both drooling over the description of the duck confit on the menu.  Indiana Duck Leg Confit, Pecan Buckwheat Blini, Espresso Demi Glace.  A huge portion, this could easily be an entree.  The demi-glace is thick and sweet and the duck skin crisp and salty. I can taste it again in my mouth as I type.  The buckwheat blini had an almost cinnamony flavor. You can see a little sprinkle of espresso dust there to the lower left side of the dish. If I am in Detroit again in September, I am going to sit at the beautiful old wooden bar, order J's salad to start with and this duck confit for my main course.

My main is what really blew me away. I have never tasted anything quite like it.  Malaysian Glazed Kurobuta Pork Loin, Pickled Pineapple.  Falling from the bone, the meat was deliciously tender like you expect from a good pork loin. But what really made this sing was the pickled pineapple.  Fresh pineapple spears pickled in star anise, Valencia orange and soy. I had to have a tiny bite of pineapple with every bite of meat. If you go, someone at your table must order this dish and it must be someone who is willing to share.

V ordered the Herb Butter Braised Beef Daube, at the strong suggestion of our patient server.  And lucky for me she loves to share. I am always eating her food. Which is odd, because usually I don't like to eat other people's food. But for some reason what she has always looks good to me.  Beef daube, a French stew, made from a short rib with porcini bordelaise, potato pearls, spinach and melted ramps. I love a ramp and the greens were outstanding.

J ate the steak...and requested veggies instead of starch to help maintain his girlish (not) figure.  This was an item from the specials menu, and I would be lying if I gave you a reputable reason for not remembering the details of this beautiful dish. Fact of the matter is we all got kinda drunk on martinis, red wine and good company.

The food at Atlas is fantastic. The service was perfection despite our California-esque tendencies to high maintenance (can we taste the wine? do you have a decanter? can I have a clean glass? can I have my meal with no starches?).  Chef Borden came out and chatted with us about his wonderful food, the upcoming theater season and restaurant week. Of note to locals, Chef Borden doesn't make a special restaurant week menu. He offers diners the same food, portions and quality you would receive at any time during the year. When fall comes and the theater season starts the menu basically doubles in size compared to how large it is now.  Which leaves me wanting to be in Detroit come late September.

Atlas is the only certifiably foodie place I have come across in Detroit, as yet anyway. I am willing and open to try more places when I come back. But I will definitely be hitting Atlas again every time I am in southern Michigan.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Detroit & the Urban Prairie

One of the mysteries of the mysterious and haunting Detroit is the wide open grassy spaces in between giant apartment buildings and Victorian era homes.

White flight began to occur in Detroit in the mid-1960's, after the 1967 Twelfth Street riots and in the midst of increased competition for jobs in the auto industry. In the early 1960's, urban Detroit's population was 1.8 million and is now less than half that. I am interested to see what the 2010 Census counts.

These urban prairies in Detroit began to develop in the 1970's as population in the city continued to decline.  Heroin and crack usage began to infiltrate the city as gangster culture began to develop and often using abandoned structures as locations for selling and using.  The city began to demolish empty and unowned structures (derelict structures & properties often revert to city ownership) creating vast spaces of land recovered partially by the prairie grasses common to the mid-west.  Most of the grass lands you see in the above videos are within the city limits, in areas that were clearly well populated with people and commerce at some point.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

The Oah'u List

Back in late spring my dear dear friends, the M family, wanted to know some of my favorite casual inexpensive places to eat on Oah'u. After sharing the list of my absolute favorites, I started getting a few requests here and there for the list.  Requests have started to trickle in more frequently from all corners of my existesphere. So, for my readers, here is my list. Created with I, G, O and T (natch) in mind, but good for anyone who likes to eat. The list skews heavily in favor of Honolulu. My family lives there so that's where we hang out for the most part.

Ono Seafood
Best poke on the island, IMO.  It's a walk up counter, no seats. Get poke and other items for a picnic or your hotel room.  Have a picnic on the beach. I always get some to bring home with me for a meal on the plane.
Ono Hawaiian Foods
Smallish cafe with traditional Hawaiian foods and a nod at some Japanese items. Super delish, very locals.
 Nijiya Japanese Market
 I don't know if you are as fanatic as I am about Japanese food, but D and I always hit Nijiya before we get to our hotel to stock up on fruits, deli items, bottled water and so on to keep in our room.

Been to both of these Greek places and both have good food. Both are BYOB, and very reasonable. Both are out in the general direction of Diamond Head.
Olive Tree

Next door to a great wine shop, you can buy a bottle there and drink it on there on the patio.

The Mad Greek
Ate here with a group of just coming of age young men on my last visit for my brother's 21st birthday dinner. We were starving after a long hike straight uphill. No one in Hawaii cares if you are a little trail worn. 
Izakaya Gaku
Hands down best izakaya on the island. You will need a reservation.  People think it's a little spendy, but I don't think it's any spendier than izakaya in L.A. and it's very pretty. About to do a blog post on it, actually. Don't miss the fried chicken.
Izakaya Nonbei
Plays a close second fiddle to Gaku.

Bare bones sushi by the airport. Supposedly the freshest fish on Oahu. We ate here on our way out of town just last month. YUM!
My folks have been coming here FORever. Yelp reviews aren't great, but I have always thought it's super fantastic. Very simple. Should be convenient for you. Not glamourous, but very good. Lots of Japanese people/families in here. Dad always calls for a reservation, but this might be because he knows them.
Brasserie Du Vin
One of my dad's girlfriend's favorite places. French wine bar in Honolulu! If they are having the art walk while you are in town, go here and eat then stroll the packed streets of Chinatown and check out the art and businesses. I wouldn't venture into this neighborhood super late at night. But anytime before 10 pm and you are fine. I also wouldn't go into any of the bars in Chinatown unless it's art walk night. We made this mistake once. Haoles/mainlanders not welcome.
My dad freaking loves Zippy's. It's like the Hawaiian Denny's. They are scattered all over the place. There is always one convenient.
Shrimp Truck
If you go to the North Shore, hit this for lunch. So delicious.
Pineapple Room/Mariposa
For a treat. These are both kinda fancy, but not as fancy as Alan Wong's.  Both are located in dept stores in Ala Moana. Mariposa is located in the Neiman Marcus, and the Pineapple Room is inside of Macy's (Macy's at Ala Moana is actually a nice store).  GREAT food at both.
Also in Ala Moana. GREAT place for lunch or breakfast with a nice view of the ocean and Ala Moana beach. The walls are all open and it's on the third floor. Lots of tiny birds fly in to pick up crumbs off the ground. It sounds totally unsanitary but it's actually really charming.

Mai Tais
I am adding this to the list for blog readers. This is our favorite sports bar in town. If we are in for any major sports event (NBA playoffs, U.S. Open, etc) we always meet Dad here for a few drinks and some mediocre appetizers. This is a sports bar in paradise. If you are at Ala Moana shopping, head up to the top floor where the sit down restaurants are and have a potent mai tai here enjoying open air seating and misters on very hot days.

None of the above places (except kinda the shrimp truck) are touristy places. I can certainly give you recs for those. But honestly, meh.


Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Photo Essay:Villains Tavern Opening Night

Villains Tavern
1356 Palmetto
Los Angeles, CA 91003
(213) 613-0766


I am mid-summer travel right now, firmly and irrevocably enmeshed and obsessed with the Detroit public school system, the city itself and the vast inequities in the region between the haves and have-nots. If you follow my Facebook feed no doubt you have seen multiple posts, videos and commentary and probably have me on your ignore list.

awning covered patio 

I really enjoyed myself at the Villains opening. Opened by Dana Hollister of Bordello, Paramour, Cliff's Edge and 4100 in Silverlake where in my thirties I left a large part of my liver. 

There were several people attending whom I hadn't seen since the old bar days 4100.  It was a mini-reunion.

inside bar

Located on Palmetto, basically next door to the Molino Street lofts, in a neighborhood hungry for a quality local, Villains has a built-in clientele. Smart stuff.

barkeeps used real fruits

making artisanal beverages

interesting selection of brews 

bloggers out in full force

D and I both thought it was interesting that a few (most) of the bloggers we talked to thought Villains wasn't necessarily their kind of place.  Having logged countless hours holding up a bar stool at Three Clubs and 41, Villains is definitely my kind of place. In a taxi, it is not prohibitively far. In the late nineties, we would have driven there and back.


enamored of the vintage bottle wall


Everyone stands somewhere different in terms of their acceptance of this term. Whatever, people. Have a drink. They're delicious.


crowd remains the same


view from above

bartenders/mixologists slammed but gracious

VIP lounge overlooking main bar

view from VIP lounge


badges? we don't need no stinking badges

In short, Villains is a beautiful turn-of-the-last-century inspired watering hole. With cozy Hollister-esque indoor spaces and outdoor spaces ideal for live and canned music, a little dancing and lots of posturing I foresee myself hitting this before or after dinners at Church & State, inspired drinking after hanging out in Little Tokyo, destination drinks when the Flicks are in town and maybe the occasional drive-by happy hour. It is definitely my kind of place. I will be sure to see some of the old crowd and make some new friends in the process.