If you’re a regular reader of this blog (yes, all three of them), you’re probably wondering why I haven’t posted anything in nearly a month. Lazy? Perhaps. Busy with work? Sorta. A lack of good food in my belly? Certainly not. So what’s been driving the recent blog neglection?
Macarons! Those elusive silver-dollar sized almond meringues often filled with buttercreams, jams, and ganache. Yes, they’re small, sweet, and sometimes pastel-colored. And yes, being a straight 24-year old dude that works in finance, the confections have probably earned me a few behind-the-back snickers from my coworkers. But I can’t help it…an obsession is an obsession. Read more
For the most part, I shy away from new restaurant openings, figuring the eatery will need some time to get into the swing of things: for the service to get their rhythm going, for the kitchen to start consistently executing great dishes, and for the duds on the menu to get weeded out.
So I’m still scratching my head at how I ended up at Lukshon, Sang Yoon’s wildly-hyped upscale Asian restaurant, one chilly February evening, a mere week after it opened. But if tonight’s meal is anything to go by, I’m certain I’ll be making the drive over to Culver City over and over to try more of Sang Yoon’s unique upscale takes on comforting Asian food.
Sometimes I wonder if snagging a seat at Craig Thornton’s underground supper club, Wolvesmouth, is harder than landing a table at Totoraku, Momofuku Ko, and The Fat Duck combined. Given the recent blog and media coverage as well as the limited number of seats at Thornton’s events, that statement probably isn’t too far from the truth.
For the uninitiated, Craig Thornton throws what are essentially organized invite-only dinner parties twice a month. The 10-15 course menu constantly changes, and most impressively, Craig single-handedly sources, preps, and cooks every dish. Diners, for the most part, don’t know who they’ll be eating with, and suppers are donation-based (each person pays what he/she thinks is fair). Those interested in joining sign up via an online mailing list (here), and cross their fingers that someday down the road, they’ll get an invitation in their email.
While I haven’t had the luck of receiving a golden ticket in my inbox, I’ve always been intrigued by Thornton’s unique, imaginative, and cerebral cooking ever since I first stumbled across Wolvesmouth months ago. So this past Sunday, when I came across one of Craig’s recipes, Wolves in the Snow, published in LA Weekly’s food blog, Squid Ink, I couldn’t help but give it a shot. Here’s what transpired.
The debate for The Best Fried Chicken around is much like the debate over one’s favorite pizza, burger, or barbeque: everyone has their favorite joint.
Brined with lemon, fistfuls of herbs, and honey, many swear the fried chicken served at Thomas Keller’s Ad Hoc is the best in the world. Others pony up the $100 asking price at David Chang’s Momofuku Noodle Bar to gorge on his famous Korean-style fried chicken that’s covered in an addictive sweet-spicy glaze. Filipinos the world over are fiercly loyal to the chicken served at Jollibee, a chain whose mascot, a giant, ridiculously happy plastic bee, might just double as the Philippines’ national icon.
Even within Los Angeles, the debate continues. There’s Honey Kettle, whose gossamer crust is so light you wonder if any batter was used at all. Roscoe’s Chicken and Waffles is pratically a Los Angeles institution. When Chef Ludo Lefebvre’s Ludotruck first opened, lines for his auburn-crusted nuggets of meat stretched around the block and then some. And then there’s always those who claim their mother makes the best freaking fried chicken around.
And as for me? I’m in love with the fried chicken at Josef Centeno’s Little Tokyo gastropub, Lazy Ox Canteen. I had it almost a week ago and still can’t stop thinking about it. Read more
The first time I visited the Hollywood Farmers Market, I swung by after church on a gorgeous Sunday morning– one of those mornings that you spend wishing the sun would never set. While most people sleep in on Sundays, I love going out. It’s one of the rare times traffic is non-existent, and it feels like I have Los Angeles all to myself.
At the market, I found stall after stall of impeccably fresh, organic produce– tomatoes actually looked like tomatoes, not those fire-engine-red perfectly spherical balls you find at Ralphs. The seafood was so fresh it didn’t even smell like the ocean. I sampled some fruits so sweet I thought I was eating candy. My initial “quick peek” turned into a multi-hour affair.
Some chefs that are so inextricably linked to specific foods that you wonder if they grew up cooking it their entire lives, eventually perfecting it in their professional cooking careers. Who thinks about Judy Rodgers without Roasted Chicken? Tomohiro Sakata’s yakitori’s is peerless. Scott Conant perfected spaghetti, and I’m pretty sure David Chang’s has cooked enough pork belly to feed a small country. These chefs struck something deep inside me and changed the way I saw a particular dish or ingredient– almost like a food epiphany.
When I first ate at Totoraku years ago, the experience was one of those moments. One dinner made me reconsider what I knew about beef. By the end of the meal, I was certain Totoraku was finest example of Japanese barbeque (yakiniku) outside of Japan.
There’s just one hitch though: it’s likely the hardest reservation in Los Angeles. The front door is locked; the phone number listed on the awning is a fake. Totoraku technically isn’t open to the public and one generally does need to be invited by Chef Kaz Oyama to attain reservation privileges or at least know a regular to get in. However, once you step inside, the door is locked behind you (kinda freaked me out the first time), and the magic begins.
My recent meal at Fraiche with my friend Mike in late December could be best described as caloric suicide. Midway through our meal, the strangers seated at the adjacent table couldn’t help but lean over and ask how in the world we were eating so much food. At the end of the night, the thirty foot hobble from my table and out the front door -all while restraining myself from vomiting- required a herculean effort! I was barely two steps out of the restaurant when I slumped over a nearby bench, looked over at Mike, and between staggered gasps of air, briefly considered if I was going to die.
My curiosity with the restaurant was piqued in December when I heard Ben Bailly had recently left his helm at Petrossian to revamp the menu and serve as the executive chef of Fraiche’s Culver City location. Excited to see how Bailly would adapt from the luxurious caviar-laden dishes of Petrossian to the rustic cuisine at Fraiche, I called up the restaurant and had them specially whip up a nine-course tasting menu for us.
If your family is anything like mine, Food, Love, and Family are so tightly intertwined that it might as well be the Holy Trinity. It wasn’t always that way for me though. As a young child all too eager to worship at the temple of Ronald McDonald, my mom’s home-cooked meals felt like my mini version of hell, if hell meant being strapped to a chair and force-fed healthy food for an hour.
Later in life, I realized this was my mom’s nurturing way of showing her love and affection for her children. In my teens, my initial disdain for mom’s bowls of chicken soup that she boiled for countless hours morphed into a fondness. I started looking forward to her famous crab and mango salad. If I was especially lucky and mom dished out her kare kare, a traditional Filipino dish of boiled oxtail and vegetables covered in a viscous peanut sauce, I would polish off half a dozen bowls as easily as I eat half a dozen oysters. And seeing my mom smile from watching her son scarf down bowls of her cooking was immensely satisfying.
While my mom brought the family together at home, my dad brought the family together in restaurants. Some of my fondest childhood memories involve heading to Paparazzi, formerly my family’s favorite Italian joint, to gorge on prosciutto-laden pizzas after church. My dad’s well-experienced palate was the one that initially guided me (and often still does) through esoteric Japanese menus. I progressed from California rolls to sushi; from simple maguro and sake to more esoteric fish like sayori and shima-aji; my love of ankimo, ikura, and uni came from him. Food brought the family together and with the food came lots and lots of love.
With my parents’ 30th wedding anniversary in early January, my sisters and I decided to congratulate as well as show our love and appreciation to my parents with a home-cooked meal. We spent some time brainstorming a menu that would be comforting yet a step up from standard home-cooked fare. Here’s what we served.
A bit delayed and perhaps a tad out of context given Christmas was over two weeks ago, I nevertheless felt compelled to post the rest of my Christmas lunch— after all, this blog is a great excuse to archive the food and convivial atmosphere for my own sake, if nothing else. This winter, my table was blessed with strong showings from both my sisters. Everyone had a wonderful time laughing, gleefully taking pictures, and simply basking in each other’s company.