Wednesday, October 28, 2009
Having done my share of ethnic and street food dining over the years, I was definitely curious as to what the food was going to be like at Street Restaurant. Inspired and created by Susan Feniger of Two Hot Tamales fame and also part-owner of LA's Ciudad and Border Grill, the focus of this new endeavor was geared towards a menu that was globally street-food and snack-food inspired.
While I was intrigued by the idea of Street restaurant, I'm sure it wasn't meant to replace the true street food experience. When it comes to street food, there's just something about being so close to the preparation of your food that you can practically lend a helping hand. Second, there's a certain camaraderie with other people, as you wait on the sidewalk in anticipation of your food being served. Third, I just love the get your hands dirty aspect of eating from a paper plate or tray. Finally, I really enjoy how simply the food is prepared. These street chefs cook their food without any fuss or muss and of course, you can't beat the price.
I think what Street restaurant does well is give its customers an introduction to ethnic street food and snacks, but in such a way where they can sit comfortably at table and chair with china and silverware in a funky and cool setting. Plus, they don't need to globe trot the world or even all over Los Angeles to taste the world's flavors. A good portion of it can be seen on the menu. So given all that, what did I think about the food? To start, I enjoyed the appetizer which were Millet Seed Puffs with Marshmallow, Fennel, Curry, Coriander,Cumin and Black Currant. I enjoyed the light crunchiness of this dish and it was a welcome change from the standard bread and butter.
For my beverage of choice, I went with the Cantaloupe and Beet Agua Fresca, which was beautifully presented. The intense red of the beet was layered over the intense orange of the cantaloupe juice. Pretty to look at, but also very refreshing.
Soon our dishes started arriving with the first to our table being the Paani Puri, which were small bites of spiced potato, chutneys and sprouted beans enclosed in crispy puffs of dough, topped with yogurt. For an added dimension, you pour cilantro water into the puff. I've had a similar dish called the Danipuri at a restaurant called Rasraj, so I knew the intent was to eat the Paani Puri in one bite. Was it a good bite? It was good enough. Having done my share of eating Indian food, I would have liked there to be more of a kick in flavor as well as a cilantro water that was less watered down, but overall, it was a promising start to our meal.
Along with the Paani Puri came the Spinach Varenyky, which were small Ukranian dumplings filled with spinach and a light layer of salted cheese, boiled than pan-fried sour cream, fried onions and lemon marmalade. Being a spinach lover, I was already pre-disposed to loving this dumpling with my first bite, but unfortunately, it didn't do much for me. I did enjoy the spinach itself, but the other flavors seemed too muted for my taste.
The next dish that arrived was one of my favorites and what's interesting is that it could easily be replicated at home. Simply, the Kaya Toast was sheer perfection and it's comprised of toasted bread spread thick with coconut jam and served with a soft boiled egg drizzled in dark soy sauce and white pepper. Be sure to dip the bread into the broken yolk for both sweet and savory flavors.
Following the Kaya Toast, came the Japanese Shizo Shrimp, which were deep fried marinated shrimps that were rolled with shizo and nori seaweed and came with a dipping sauce of ponzu, grated radish and wasabi as well as the Moldavian Meatballs, ground beef and kasha meatballs simmered in a sweet and sour tomato sauce with dill sour cream. While neither were show stoppers, they were solid dishes with the shrimp being light and crispy and the meatballs cooked in a sauce that I wouldn't mind pouring on top of noodles and enjoying in that manner.
My second favorite dish of the meal was the Malaysian Black Pepper Clams, which had clams simmered in oyster sauce with cracked black pepper, palm sugar, soy and lime. That broth was heavenly. Forget the clams. I was happy just dipping the bread into the bowl, soaking up the broth and biting into the bread. We even asked for more bread because we didn't want the broth to go to waste. It was that good.
More Indian flavors came our way with the arrival of the Saag Paneer, Kokum Dal and Rice Plate, a South Indian spinach dish stewed with homemade paneer cheese, tomato and spices, served with dried plum dal and yogurt rice as well as the Indian Semolina Cakes, which were crispy pan fried cakes of utma semolina with toasted cashews, peas, tomato and spices, topped with tomato chutney. The Saag Paneer dish wasn't that memorable, but I did enjoy the semolina cakes, although I would have liked them to be a bit more airy and not as heavy in texture.
Our last savory dish before dessert was the Massamum Chicken Curry, a Southern Thai curry dish with chicken, red yam and mushrooms simmered in coconut milk and spices. I just had a little taste of the curry, but having been spoiled by eating at Jitlada, a Southern Thai restaurant, I would have liked a little more complexity and a lot more heat in the curry sauce itself. To be fair though, I only had a couple of spoonfuls so if the heat was more of a slow burn, I wouldn't have noticed from such a limited sampling.
There's always room for dessert and my party went for the Turkish Doughnuts, small spiced pastries, fried and simmered in cardamom rose syrup served with sour cream and rose hip jam and a Toffee and Cookie Plate which included peanut and butter jelly cookies and bittersweet chocolate toffee. I liked the doughnuts, although from the look of them, they seem like they were over-fried? As for the Toffee and Cookie Plate, nothing really exciting, but it served its purpose of giving us something sweet to end the meal with.
Overall, although the food was hit and miss for me, I like the idea of Street, in that it could introduce new foods to customers who aren't usually that adventurous and hopefully, it will encourage them to also seek out more authentic flavors elsewhere. As for me, Street isn't in my near future, but at least my time there was a nice little jaunt around the world and all from one table.
Click here to see all the photos!
742 N. Highland Ave
Los Angeles, CA 90038
Sunday, October 25, 2009
40 Years of Preservation Celebrated at the Historic San Antonio Winery
On Saturday, November 7, the Heritage Square Museum will host a very special 40th Anniversary Fundraiser and Luncheon at the historic San Antonio Winery. This event will help raise critical funds for Heritage Square Museum to continue for another 40 years. The Fundraiser begins at 1:30 p.m. and ends at 4:30 p.m. Honorary Event Chair, Councilman Ed Reyes, District One, will be in attendance and making a special presentation.
Tours of the San Antonio Winery and wine tasting reception are from 1:30 to 2:30 p.m., with the luncheon buffet beginning at 2:30 p.m. Special celebrity guest appearances soon to be announced.
More About the Heritage Square Museum:
In 1969, Heritage Square Museum began its mission to preserve the history of Southern California and eventually saved eight historic structures. Forty years later, it is one of the leading living history museums in Southern California, dedicated to telling the story of the development of Los Angeles.
Heritage Square Museum has seen remarkable growth in 2009. With an aggressive slate of exciting programs, events and exhibits, museum attendance has already surpassed all of 2007 and will exceed 2008s total before the year is over. In 2010, the museum is planning its greatest period of expansion in decades. A new drugstore (complete with original furnishings), the recreation of historic windows on the Lincoln Avenue Methodist Church, an expansion of the Victorian Fence Project, important infrastructure improvements and more are planned to meet the museum’s growing needs make for more exciting opportunities for all of its International, National and Southern California visitors.
Heritage Square Museum is regularly open Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays, from 12 to 5 p.m. (Hours vary November to February). Admission is $10/adults, $8/seniors, $5/children ages 6-12. The Museum is located at 3800 Homer Street, off the 110 Arroyo Seco Parkway (110/Pasadena Freeway) at Avenue 43, just north of downtown Los Angeles. For further information, visit our website at www.heritagesquare.org.
Heritage Square Museum 40th Anniversary Fundraiser
Saturday, November 7, 2009 from 1:30 pm - 4:30 pm
San Antonio Winery
737 Lamar Street
Los Angeles, CA 90031
Tickets are $125.00
Tickets can be purchased by calling the Heritage Square Museum at (323) 225-2700
Sunday, October 11, 2009
With the restaurant boom happening in downtown Los Angeles, I wanted the dust to settle a bit before checking out all the various eateries. First on the list was Rivera, the brain child of Chef John Rivera Sedler with his take on Modern Latin Cuisine. I bet you can tell how he came up with the restaurant name. Anyway, 5 of us shared 16 different dishes from snacks all the way to desserts and even partook in a couple of cocktails. Mine was the Summer Splash made of Vodka, Lemon, Basil and Honey and it was quite refreshing.
Our meal started off with a trio of items from the snacks section of their menu. First to arrive was the Patatas Xips which were Kennebec potato chips that came with a chipotle-lime crema topped with caviar. Nothing spectacular, but at least the chips were light and crispy and I liked the tart and the little kick flavor of the crema.
Next came the Xnipek which was described on the menu as a Yucatan-style charred-habenero "Dog's Snout" Salsa and Mini Chips. The "Dog's Snout" refers to how the salsa is suposed to be so spicy that once you sample it, your nose will be equivalent to a dog's runny nose. I actually didn't think the salsa was as spicy as it proclaimed to be although it did have a kick, but it didn't matter, I loved it. If I could, I would have gone in the kitchen, spooned some into a jar or two and taken it home.
The trio was rounded off with the Tortillas Florales, housemade Nixtimal tortillas and 'Indian Butter". This is actually my second time experiencing these Tortillas with my first time being at Altamed's Fourth Annual East LA Meets Napa Event which I attended last July. Second time around was just as delicious. I loved the presentation of the pressed edible flowers inside the tortilla plus the tortilla itself which was thick, crispy and hearty.
After the snacks, we went into the starters and what better way to start than with the Chile Pasilla Relleno which was a chilled pickled mile chile filled with burrata cheese. Of the 6 starter items we ordered, this was my favorite. I enjoyed the slight vinegary aspect of the chile plus with it being served cold, it was refreshing to the palate. By the way, on some of the dishes, there were different kinds of what I'm going to call "spice art".
Soon after the Chile Pasilla Relleno, the other 5 dishes arrived in full force like the Cordero Vasco, which were Basque lamb chops, chorizo, piquillos, olives and capers. The lamb chops were cooked just right, but considering the ingredients that were used, I expected more pops of flavor, but was missing that.
The Piquillos Rellenos which were Spanish peppers stuffed with chorizo, golden raisins and gruyere cheese was actually one of the favorites of the table. I appreciated the tenderness of the pepper and how the sweetness of the golden raisins complemented the milder gruyere cheese. The chorizo wasn't as present as it could have been, but I didn't really miss it.
With a recommendation from our server, we also ordered the Bacalao Negro Fresco which was seared black cod and serrano ham crisp. I liked how the fish was delicate and moist, but had a crisped surface. The saltiness of the ham also went well with the mild flavor of the cod.
The next dish was my least favorite of the entire meal and it was the Cordorniz Cubana, a grilled quail with black beans. This is my fifth attempt at trying to like quail and it didn't take this time either. Most of my other party enjoyed this dish, but it wasn't for me. I've always find quail to be fatty. Maybe, if it was fried, I'd at least enjoy the crispy skin, but as of now, this is the last time I'm eating quail.
Last but not least of our starters was the Tamal which had braised pork short rib, seasonal mushrooms and guajillo sauce. The tamal itself was delicate and moist and maybe, I'm being just a bit greedy, but I would have loved more pork and mushrooms. I especially liked the mushrooms which added a nice earthiness to the overall dish.
After we finished off the last bit of the tamal, our 3 main entrees arrived along with a side of calabacitas. By the way, the calabacitas were prettily presented in a corn husk and I loved the color and the crunch of the squash, the bell peppers and the corn that made up that mixture.
Of our three main dishes, the one that I thought was just okay was the Maya Puerco Pibil Sous Vide which was banana leaf braised pork shoulder and Peruvian potatoes. Honestly, I don't understand what the big deal is in regards to meats that are cooked using the sous-vide method. Perhaps, my expectation isn't correct in that I always assume that the meat cooked in this manner should be extra tender, extra juicy. It's not as if the pork in this dish was tough by any means, but it didn't meet my perhaps too lofty expectations? However, this dish's presentation was quite eye catching.
The Kurobuta Pork Chop with a Mole Sauce and Sweet Potatoes on the side was tasty. It's not the best mole sauce I've ever had, but it did have wonderful flavor plus the pork chop was thick and juicy.
Everyone went gaga over the our last entree which was the Duck Enfrijolada with goat cheese, stacked blue-corn tortillas, black bean puree and chile rioja sauce. It wasn't the prettiest dish of the night, but all the flavors melded well together, from the pungency of the cheese to the earthiness of the black beans and so on.
13 dishes down and yes, we still had room for dessert and we ordered three of them. The first one to arrive was the Torta Xocolata, a chocolate torte and drunken pineapple. I forgot to ask what the pineapple was drunk from, but the tartness of the pineapple paired well with that dark chocolate torte.
The Crema Catalana with almonds and xerex creme had a wonderful crispy caramelization on the surface, but was a bit soupy, which was unexpected. I liked the fact that this dessert wasn't overly sweet, but I wish that consistency was thicker because I would have enjoyed it much more.
Our last dessert was Quesos Españoles which consisted of three Spanish cheeses with sangria jus and crusty bread. We let our server choose our cheeses. Unfortunately, I only remember that one of them was a Manchego and the other was a blue cheese. Regardless, it's hard to go wrong with cheese and it was the perfect finale to our meal.
Overall, except for one or two minor things, this was a wonderful meal and if all the new downtown Los Angeles restaurants are on par with Rivera, than I have a lot to look forward to as I explore more of what downtown has to offer.
1050 S Flower St
Los Angeles, CA 90015-5100
Monday, October 05, 2009
Recently, about a dozen LA and Orange County Food Bloggers and Writers were invited to a 2 day event put together by Lee Healey of Lee Healey Marketing Communications and hosted by both Lee and Debra Gunn Downing, Executive Director of Marketing of South Coast Plaza. The event centered around dining experiences at 5 restaurants as well as checking out a high end kitchen and cooking store. Since I hardly ever go down Orange County way, this was my first experience with all the places we visited and it was nice to find such great eating options down South. When we arrived Friday night, our first stop was at Hamamori.
Even with a premium shopping center like South Coast Plaza, I have to say that my expectations of "mall food" weren't too high, but eating at Hamamori soon changed my mind. At Hamamori, we shared 6 dishes. All were quite good, but I definitely had three favorite dishes. Two of them were special nigiri. Both were sprinkled with Himalayan Pink Salt and had a squeeze of lemon; however, one was Hokkaido Scallop Sushi topped with caviar and the other was Japanese Yellowtail topped with chili paste. Both were fresh and I really liked the tart-salty flavors coming from the lemon and salt.
Third was the fun interactive experience of cooking thinly sliced Kobe beef on top of a steaming and hot lava stone that came from Mt. Fuji. The beef came with a steak sauce, an apple sesame sauce and chili salt. While the sauces weren't mind-blowing, the beef was tender and I enjoyed the instant gratification of seeing the meat cook in seconds and being able to eat it right away.
Hamamori was definitely a great start and from there, we took a walk to Napa Style, part of a chain of high-end kitchen and cooking stores owned by Chef Michael Chiarello of Top Chef Master fame. Here we were able to experience a salt tasting, an olive oil tasting and a wine tasting. At the salt tasting, we got to sample 5 different salts using fingerling potatoes and tomatoes. The use of the fingerling potatoes were genius because it gave you a neutral surface to sample the salt with. Salts ranged from Himalayan Pink Salt to Truffle Salt to the Gray Salt that is Chef Chiarello's go to seasoning for a lot of his cooking.
Afterwards, we sampled some of their olive oils. What's nice about the olive oils is that after you taste them, you can immediately bottle the one you want to purchase. They have both filtered and unfiltered olive oils available as well as olive oils infused with other ingredients. Of the ones we tried, I really enjoyed their Unfiltered Sicilian Extra Virgin Olive Oil because it had a little bite to it and also their Blood Orange Olive Oil, which was absolutely delicious.
Salt, then olive oil and now it was wine time. At our wine tasting, we sampled 5 of Chef Chiarello's red wines and each of the wine was named after a family member, from his youngest daughter to his wife. I'm usually more of a white wine drinker, but I have to say that I actually found these reds quite pleasant.
Our next stop was Charlie Palmer at Bloomingdale's where we first enjoyed cocktails in their wine shop, Next Vintage and were also shown their eWine Book, a tablet PC that allows them to present their extensive wine list electronically to customers and allows them to search for wine availability based on Type, Country, Region, Varietal, Vintage or Price.
After cocktails, our group shared 9 dishes in a private dining room. Three of the dishes stood out for me. First, there was the Mussels, Garlic and White Wine with Saffron Aiolia and Grilled Sourdough. It had lots of great flavors plus the broth was delicious.
Being a cheeshead, I couldn't get enough of the Burrata Cheese, Roasted Baby Tomatoes and Arugula Pesto.
Finally, the Truffle Fried Egg Topped with Tuna Ham (exported from Spain and costs $42.00 a lb) is a dish I could easily have breakfast, lunch or dinner. That tuna ham was especially memorable and at such a price point, it better be.
You'd think this food marathon would be ending soon, but nope, dessert was next on the agenda and it was experienced at Marche Moderne. What a delicious experience that was. Based on just the desserts alone, a return trip to Marche Moderne to check out their appetizers and entrees is definitely in my agenda in the near future.
I found absolutely no fault with any of their sweet offerings which included the following: Green Tea Macaroon, Apricot Macaroon, Orange Beignet, Banana Caramel Pecan Tart and Meringue Filled with Lemon Curd and Topped with Fresh Raspberry. Of all the desserts though, my absolute favorite was the Orange Beignet. I loved how light and airy it was.
So ended our first day. While the OC Bloggers went to their respective homes, hotel accommodations at the Westin were paid for by South Coast Plaza for the LA Bloggers. After a good night's sleep, the next day started with Continental Breakfast at Pinot Provence, which is actually in the hotel itself.
While we started our day with a choice of bagels, lox, cream cheese, muffins, croissants, granola, yogurt and fruit, we were joined by Executive Chef Lauren “Lulu” DeRouen. For someone so young, she's definitely well-travelled and she shared stories about her various culinary adventures. It was really enjoyable being able to sit down with a Chef and hear about her food background and why she became a Chef in the first place.
Our last stop on this 2 day food journey was at Pizzeria Ortica. Here we got a chance to see a pasta making demonstration from Executive Chef/Partner Steve Samson and helped by his Sous Chef, Zach. Between the two of them, they showed us how to make pasta dough and how to roll that pasta through an Italian pasta rolling machine. Afterwards, we got to see how various types of pasta were made, which included everything from filled raviolis, noodles, agnolotti, tortellini and more. They definitely made it look easy. Being all thumbs, I don't think I'd be able to do as good a job.
After the demonstration, we sat down to enjoy a pasta sampler plate which included Pear and Pecorino Tortelli with Brown Sugar and Sage, Burrata Ravioli with Fresh Tomato Sauce and Basil and Spinach Tagliatelle with Bolognese Sauce and Parmigiano Reggiano. We were also treated to a Margherita Pizza with San Marzano Tomatoes, Gioia Mozzarella and Basil. After seeing all the work into making pasta in general, it made me appreciate that last meal even more.
Overall, it was an enjoyable two days, spending time with my fellow bloggers as well getting the chance to experience some great OC eats at the South Coast Plaza. I still may not make it down to Orange County very often, but at least when I am in town, I have some new options I've never had before.
Click Here To See the 176 Pictures I Took of This Event!
3333 Bear St
Costa Mesa, CA 92626
3333 Bear St
Costa Mesa, CA
Charlie Palmer at Bloomingdales
3333 S Bristol St
Costa Mesa, CA 92626
3333 Bristol St
Costa Mesa, CA 92626
686 Anton Blvd
Costa Mesa, CA 92626
650 Anton Blvd
Costa Mesa, CA 92626
OC Eating: South Coast Plaza Restaurant Tour
5 Top Tastes of South Coast Plaza
South Coast Plaza Food Extravaganza Part I: Hamamori & Napa Style
South Coast Plaza Food Extravaganza Part II: Charlie Palmer & Marche Moderne + Giveaway
FTC regulations dictate full disclosure. All South Coast Plaza meals were fully comped and they hosted most of the L.A. bloggers at the Westin St. Francis for the night of October 2. As we toured South Coast Plaza, several stops gave us takeways. NapaStyle gave us a bottle of wine, a tin of gray salt and a Michael Chiarello cookbook. Charlie Palmer’s gave us a bottle of wine and a wine opener. South Coast Plaza gave us a luggage tag, Kiehl’s body scrub, a jar of Antonello’s pasta sauce, three magazines and a cookie. Pizzeria Ortica gave us a bag of beans, cooking wine and a T-shirt. While we didn’t receive cash, every blogger knew going in that if we posted three tweets per stop, we’d receive a $100 gift card to South Coast Plaza, and that if we posted about our experience within 72 hours, we’d receive another $100 gift card.