750 W Fir Street
San Diego, CA 92101
Stopping in Little Italy with a friend Friday for a birthday glass of wine and a mani/pedi before picking up one of our favorite Texans at the airport, K and I found ourselves at newcomer Underbelly. Love at first sight, without a doubt. Underbelly is THE realization of the kind of bar D and I have dreamt about, schemed and discussed a million times while buying lottery tickets.
Underbelly is a yatai-style bar & restaurant. Yatai are food stalls in Japan, the type you have seen under train stations or near commuter centers with stools around a tiny cooking area typically serving ramen and other hot food as well as beer and sake. Underbelly has a simple multi-Asian-inspired menu with many tempting choices such as Oxtail Dumpling with Hoisin Glazed Short Rib, Char-Sui Belly, Charred Spicy Kimchee Ramen as well as several other ramen choices. I almost talked D into driving to San Diego Sunday afternoon so I could eat there for a full meal and maybe have a little Gas Lamp pub crawl on three-day weekend Saturday night #2. Failure to manipulate. :-(
Menu above. There are some simple rules about seating in this tiny venue. Underbelly has a walk up ordering system at the bar, and you cannot order unless there is an available seat for everyone in your party. Seats surround the horseshoe bar, line the walls facing the street and are actually on the sidewalk facing into the restaurant through the open windows that make up the outer walls.
Facing in. K and I grabbed a fast glass of wine prior to our pedis at Lena Nails down the street, and returned post-pedis for a second glass and a snack. This is a serious beer list including beers I have never heard of as well as Hitachino Nest, Chimay, Alagash White, Serpent's Stout, and so on. A few well chosen wines are stored cask style for space saving, and Urbanist reports Suntory Yamazaki whiskey and a raw bar are both on the way.
K and I shared a couple appies, as we planned to eat later with EKD. Above, I nommed three smallish (but really not that small) Kurobuta weiners with whole grain mustard and kim chee. Inhaled.
K munched some beautiful Ahi Tataki with ponzu and sesame oil with definite flavors of yuzu hanging around the greens. Beautiful dish.
I loved the concept, the food, the friendly service from literally everyone working there and didn't even mind the funky ordering protocol...I just wish it wasn't 122 miles (exactly) away.
This is THE chicken. This Bon Appetit recipe is very well reviewed on Epicurious and is now well cooked among my friends, my family and in my own kitchen here in Los Angeles and abroad. It seems unassuming at first glance, but with the smoked paprika, cumin, and cooling yogurt sauce it has distinctive Moroccan flavors, a little bite from chile pepper flakes and favors a carb conscious diet.
I have made this chicken at home many times because it is fast and inexpensive. I also made it last summer cooking for eleven people in a tiny London kitchen. What is up with the tiny-ness of UK kitchens? It's not like the British are miniature people. I also cooked it this fall for a very good friend's baby shower in Austin. I claim to this day J owes baby Laine's good looks and happy nature to this chicken. More recently, I threw it together for an Australian Open viewing party instead of ordering pizza, food win all around, IMO.
This is very easy, and as stated, preparation is not time consuming. A couple things to remember. The chicken must be on the bone whether you choose to use breast pieces, or thighs and legs. The bones elevate the chicken from the cooking sheet allowing it to crisp a little all around. Also, the above pic shows the ingredients quite packed together in the cooking pan. Don't do this. Use a pan larger than you need (two if you are doubling the recipe) so the tomatoes and garbanzos have room to spread out and crisp as well. The beans should be toothsome and the tomatoes should get nice and roasty. Do what I say, not what I do.
My mom is a genius at following, interpreting and tweaking recipes, bringing them to further greatness. She suggests doubling the oil mixture, so you can be a little more generous with the yogurt sauce and a little extra spiced oil also leaves your chicken nicely moist.
I am having some formatting issues with this post, annoying the piss out of me on a Sunday morning. Read more after the jump
There's nothing better than coming home from a business trip on Friday night to a busy weekend full of busyness loaded with promise. I'm not gonna cook tonight, but I'm gonna have a couple strong drinks and run around like a maniac with Jackson.
Drink du jour is Bacardi and Fresca. Fresca is an easy blend of sweet and bitter. I tm'd T to announce my new home cocktail a couple weeks ago, she responded "summer 2012". I thought, "now 2012". Drink and in the background my MIL's 75th birthday present, party tomorrow night. Can't wait.
These stools are one of the first things I see when I walk in the door. They are bar stools from HAC, or Hollywood Athletic Club, where I spent one evening a week swing dancing with the Moth back in the single days. Mom and I spied these years ago standing on Sunset, broken down and bitter outside the defunked Den of Antiquity. At the time, I thought, "I know Sue would appreciate these". Mom and I snapped them up; D and I later spent a small fortune to refurbish. Never regretted a penny. They are the center of our home. No lie.
On a joyful night guitar playing ensues, while dog mania accompanies on the paw-striking-floor (an under appreciated percussionary instrument).
When I take pictures like this I often remember something I said to a friend of a friend during the bravado of a foolish youth.
She was in the middle of a challenging photo journalism course at a London college and I was in the middle of vagabonding it around the world to avoid growing up in any way, shape or form. She lamented the fact her peers had the funds to travel abroad to take meaningful and striking photojournalistic shots in India, Dubai, South America...while her funds kept her firmly planted in the UK in un-newsworthy ground.
In the way only immature youth can, I surely informed her some of the most worthy shots are right in front of you, if you look deeply enough.
Not that I don't stand by my previous assessment. I do. I believe new happens all the time, in small and otherwise unnoticed events around us, we need to remain eyes wide open. However, many vagabond and somewhat iconoclastic years behind me... here I am. Happily snapping endless un-newsworthy shots of my dog, my husband's guitars and my Echo Park shack. There's nothing newsworthy here. Just a little joy on a Friday night. Waiting for someone to deliver dinner.
A mild, semi-soft, part skim cheese made from cow’s milk. Jarlsberg has a buttery, rich texture with a mild, nutty flavor characterized by large round holes. It is an all-purpose cheese, good for both cooking and for eating as a snack. Choose from Jarlsberg regular or Jarlsberg Lite, available in slices, wedges, and random weight pieces. Jarlsberg is the #1 selling specialty cheese in the USA.
When I think of Jarlsberg, I think of one of the few foodie moments in my favorite guilty pleasure film, The Devil Wears Prada. Mid-movie, after Andy turns down the beautiful, fatty and carblicious grilled cheese Nate has made, Nate says, "Give that to me, there's like ten dollars worth of Jarlsberg in there". I would never turn down a sandwich made by Adrien Grenier. If it were made of Jarlsberg, I might eat it off his stomach
This month, Jarlsberg is running a promotion asking food bloggers all over to post a recipe using Jarlsberg dip...myself included. The Super Bowl has inspired me to make finger food easily shared but healthfully made. Oven roasted sweet potatoes (crispy goodness) and a Jarslberg Dip based sauce with a kick!
Jarslberg Dip combines Jarlsberg, mayo and sweet red onion...and you should be able to procure Jarlsberg Dip premade (just in time for the Superbowl) at Gelsons, Von's, Ralph's, Safeway and Lucky's, to name a few spots. It would be great in one of many recipes, but also just used alone for munching on crackers, a dip for crudite, spread on grilled french bread or ciabatta.
Jarlsberg Smoked Paprika Dip
4 ounces Jarlsberg Dip
1 ounce plain Greek yogurt
2 tsp smoked paprika
1 tsp sriracha
Combine ingredients, cover and chill.
Oven Roasted Sweet Potato Fries
1.5 pounds sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into .5 inch wedges
.25 cup olive oil
.5 tsp kosher salt
.5 tsp Italian seasoning or other herbs (I also love these fries with rosemary or even cilantro)
Preheat oven to 425F. Line baking sheet with aluminum foil and cooking spray. Toss strips in bowl with oil, herbs and salt. Spread strips in one layer on baking sheet, not touching. Bake for 30 minutes, turning every 10 minutes for even browning. Serve warm with cool dip.
Tailgate tote stocked with the following:
Jarlsberg Lite Cheese
Jarlsberg Cheese Dip
Snofrisk (Norwegian style cream cheese)
To enter giveaway, click through to 28 Ways to Leap Into Jarlsberg Dip icon below.
The entirety of this post was monetarily sponsored by Jarlsberg, my time, my groceries and my belly!
Despite not having won the reservation lottery (love this concept) that secured patrons a table in the current Ludobites iteration, I got under Ludo's wife's skin enough times on Twitter for her to offer us a table when one came available. I am extremely grateful. Going to each issue of Ludobites is like decorating your food experiences with a unique jewel. For those who don's know, Ludobites is a small plates pop-up concept. Every time I have been, Ludo has toyed with flavors, ethnic perspectives, classic technique, and composition to create new dishes to wow diners. No two times are ever alike; I still hear bloggers reminisce over the infamous Foie Crocque Monsieur.
I admit, Ludobites has changed since I started going in 2009. Mostly the crowd has changed: the size and who is there. Back in the Breadbar days, I couldn't drop in without running into bloggers I know such as Kevineats, Gastronomnom (where the eff is his blog anyway), the Gastronomer, and so on. This issue finds @chefludo in a larger space, seemingly better set up to run a restaurant (although I understand the kitchen is tiny) inhabiting Lemon Moon in the first floor of the Westside Media Center where the permanent restaurant clears out bright and early for Ludo's prep team. Every table on the considerably larger floor is filled except a two top and two spots at the communal dining table before we arrive. and before we leave there are 10 people waiting for us to do so. Ludo's show Ludobites America has not hurt his popularity, nor have his well edited and extremely entertaining visits to Top Chef Masters. Everyone wants a bite of Ludo.
My three favorite bites of the night.
Chicken Tandoori Crackling. This was far and away D's favorite., it appealed to his Jewish culinary background. He will always eat pâtébecause it reminds him of Mom's chopped liver. This is elevated chopped liver however, sea salted and scooped gently onto fried chicken skin. Four orders of this, people. Ludo swung by our table before we left wondering why we weren't ordering dessert.
FOUR ORDERS, that's WHY!
Uni Creme Brulee. I hesitated to order this...it sounds exotic and fun but almost gratuitously over the top. Like a foie gras crocque monsieur with cherry jam on squid ink bread, you ask? Yes, kind of like that.
The. Perfect. Bite. Uni creme, bruleed sugar, and salmon roe. This wowed. I would have licked the ramekin had we not been seated so visibly by the front door. Savory, sweet, salty and that uni taste of the sea in the best way possible.
Pics courtesy of iPhone and Finger Focus app...and at the table they looked way better than they look on my monitor this morning. Eh-bien, tant pis.
Veal. I was excited to try this because it was debuting for the first time on the menu. The flavor profiles are huge with the rich meat covered in a dried black olive tapenade. Olives imparted a slightly bitter flavor not dissimilar from a little char on the meat, but the meat was cooked perfectly medium/medium rare without a trace of char. It reminded me ever so slightly of steak au poivre in a really good French (not steak) restaurant...
There were more bites. We tried lots of things on the fun and reasonably priced menu. But these were my top three. Thank you Ludo, for your creativity. And thank you Krissy, for being the best hostess.