Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Brunch with Mom at Cooks County

8009 Beverly Blvd
Los Angeles, CA 90048

Last Saturday Mom and I were frantically shopping for hours all over town to buy something to wear for a big event that evening, to which in the end I wore something from my own closet. Sigh. Wasted time I will never get back. Well, not really true. I was shopping with Mom, which is fun (she was a trooper this trip) and we managed brunch perfection at newcomer Cooks County. The visit was inspired by Eater LA's Hottest New Brunch Spots Winter 2011. Located at the corner of Beverly and Fairfax in the old Mimosa/Bistro LQ space, Cooks County is brought to us by Claudio and Adria Blotta from Barbrix and cheffed by Daniel Mattern and Roxanna Jullapat, formerly of Ammo.  Now that's a pedigree worthy of Westminster.


I've been brunching a lot this year. Above is the main menu. Below is the top bit, closer up.


And below is the side wrap of the menu, pastries and a little whatnot.




Mom and I treated ourselves to some post-shopping pre-napping Turley Juvenile zin, having just visited Turley on our most recent wine tasting trip to Paso Robles. I don't remember liking it this much when we were at the tasting room. My taste buds might have been suffering that day a little from previously tasting the complex reds at Lone Madrone. The Juvenile zin was wonderful Saturday with my meal.


At the rec of the waiter, I ordered the fried eggs with harissa, garbanzos, olives, yogurt and grilled olive bread. The garbanzos were nicely roasted, kind of like I roast them at home for a cocktail snack. The harissa was not as spicy as I had hoped it to be, but the effect of all the flavors together was similar to the infamous chicken recipe but instead with the ubiquitous breakfast protein. I can easily see recreating this at home (I might find a way to sneak in some smoked paprika). On Chopped recently (which I watch obsessively, even reruns, which drives the spousal unit nuts), one of the judges commented that the grilled bread on one plate was gratuitous and not really connected to the dish (probably that bitch Alex Guarnaschelli).  I found the grilled bread on this plate the perfect food to mouth vehicle for my eggs, harissa and yogurt. I think I licked the plate.


I wish there was more bar seating. This seems almost gratuitous. There are four seats. People can sit there and be fed. But it doesn't really have the bar feel that I love. I clearly need to come in and try it out my damn self.


Mom ate the duck egg crostone, with housemade pancetta, chicory and Parmesan. This picture makes my mouth water. Mom, that morning you said you had no idea what a crostone is, well please to click link to the left. She described it to Claudia later that day as toad-in-the-hole with pancetta, bitter greens and parm. Again, plate lickable.


The build out is gorgeous, rustic but polished. Not the most original design, but done really well. There were several choices on the wine-by-the-glass list that tempted me, and that's a pleasant oddity. The next step is a visit for dinner.

post script: I secretly love Alex Guarnaschelli and all her weird faces.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Three Veggie Tastes at Lazy Ox Canteen

241 South San Pedro
Los Angeles, CA 90012

On the afternoon of my last business trip to now beloved Paso Robles, D and I swung by Lazy Ox for a quick late lunch before I hit the road. We snoozled up to the bar, received service perfection, and noshed at a variety of primarily vegetable dishes. My personal barometer of excellent chefdom is measured by treatment of the vegetables. In all three dishes (even the third where the shrimp looks prominent in the snap) veggies headline and protein is the accessory. The perfect balance of acid, savory, sweet, and spicy in all dishes is why Lazy Ox has made such a name for itself in Los Angeles. The J. Gold 99 Essential, three stars by Irene, impressing the typically more upscale KevinEats, and pleasing whoever the hell this guy is.


brussel sprouts w/ spanish chorizo


caramelized cauliflower w/ pine nuts, chile & mint


grilled cabbage w/ piquillo pepper & almonds, shrimp

Although it claims to be a gastrupub, I find little or nothing pubby about it. This is a food person's restaurant that happens to have an incredibly well crafted beer and wine list. None of the fray tipified by a true gastropub like The Eagle or The Village Idiot. I used my Blackboard Eats 20% coupon, which covers tax and tip. And I already have reservations for a special holiday dinner coming right up. 

Thursday, December 8, 2011

The First Meal: Shin Sen Gumi

Shin Sen Gumi
132 So. Central Street
Los Angeles, CA 90013


A few weeks back D and I procured a nasty little case of salmonella food poisoning from food we ordered in, nothing crazy, just one of our regular places. No names mentioned, they were extremely kind about it although they claimed we were the only complainants. I ended up stranded in Santa Cruz on a 100% unproductive business trip, rolling around in a hotel room bed moaning for two days at various volumes and whatnot while D suffered at home alone. Finally able to return home, we spent another 36 hours sleeping off the remnants. Point being, our first meal in three+ days was ramen. There is nothing better for what ails you than a well crafted broth, some beautiful noodles and a bright cheery atmosphere.


We sat at the bar in the space formerly known as the now defunct Izayoi, my ex-most favorite izakaya. Sigh. If Izayoi had to go, this is a worthy replacement. Ironically, I thought Little Tokyo was previously lacking in excellent ramen, Daikokuya really being the only worthy venue. Couple the wait at Daikokuya with my husband's lack of patience for waiting and it's happy I am that there is a new ramen locale right in time for cold weather.


I like Shin Sen Gumi's style.  One basic broth with lots of options for additives you fill in yourself on a sushi style menu, add a few signature creations located at the bottom of the menu. I was looking for simplicity on the date in question ergo I settled on the basic ramen with a few run of the mill extras.


Spicy miso. One does not order spicy miso broth, instead the waiter brings you a beautiful little red ball of spicy miso paste and you can flavor it to your liking.


I added corn and lots of seaweed. D had a little army of side dishes to the right of his giant bowl. Trying to be gentle to my tender tummy, I couldn't really look at too many flavors. But next time I intend to get crazy. Really light that place on fire.


The outcome. Delicious but not the best I have ever had purely judging the broth alone. In descending order comes first and always Rokuan in Chino Hills. Second, Daikokuya. Shin Sen Gumi is third, again based solely on broth. The broth at Shin Sen Gumi is clear, light and salty, while I love dark, deep and murky. I prefer the atmosphere at Shin Sen Gumi to all three, it's light, bright, bustling and loud af. Love the approach with regard to ordering. It's never quite as busy as Daikokuya (D goes often), and it's a helluva lot closer than Chino Hills.

When my iron clad stomach returns (and it has not as of this posting), I will visit Shin Sen Gumi to try the most exotic sounding signature creation, eat it while drinking lots of sake, dance on the tables and spit into the wind.