Friday, December 11, 2009

Din Tai Fung Dumpling House, Arcadia, CA

We went early one Sunday morning to the LA branch of Din Tai Fung, a Taiwan restaurant specializing in dumplings, and in particular xiaolongbao, or soup dumplings.
Despite the wait to get it, the dumplings were simply great. We got several trays of the pork and crab & pork soup dumplings. With a little vinegar and ginger, I could probably eat several dozen of these things.
We also tried their fish dumplings which were also light and delicious.
I'm always partial to vegetarian dumplings, and the ones at Din Tai Fung were also quite good.

1108 S Baldwin Ave
Arcadia, CA 91007
(626) 574-7068

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Tasting Menu at Providence, LA

I was lucky that for my birthday, my friends got us a reservation at LA's Michelin two star restaurant, Providence for dinner.
We decided to try the full tasting menu that evening.
The meal started with a trio of amuse-bouches, two of which were alcohol based. The first was a gin & tonic gelée. You sprinkled some lemon juice on it and it would start fizzing as you put it into your mouth.
The second was a spherical mojito. Coprock told me that alcohol is very difficult to make into the spherical form.
The third item was a small cardomon carrot soup.

The first course was Japanese kanpachi, or amberjack fish, served with rice crackers and soy crème fraîche. This was my first time trying this fish. It was light and lovely especially with the crème fraîche.

The second course was an absolute decadent dish. It was Santa Barbara sea urchin served in an egg with champagne beurre blanc and American caviar. Egg sacks within an egg, topped with little eggs, and then butter! It was so rich and delicious.

The third course was a massive Hokkaido diver scallop perfectly cooked in white wine with chanterelle mushrooms and applewood bacon.

Course four was wild striped bass from Virginia with burdock, shiso and lemon. I was really impressed with the simplicity of this course as it really allowed the subtle flavor and light texture of the bass shine.

This was followed by a course of wild Coho salmon belly served with spinach on a bed of buckwheat and accompanied by a red wine gastrique. The salmon belly was so nice and fatty.

Our final main course was a veal tenderloin, cooked sous vide style, served with hazelnuts, onions, and crushed potatoes. I liked the tenderness of the veal, but despite the dish being really good, I think it paled in the light of all the great seafood courses.

This was then followed by one of the best cheese courses I've ever had. Sorry readers, I was really full and I did not recall any of the 6 cheeses we were given. Needless to say, my favorites were stinky and soft.

We had several courses for dessert. Things started with a nice palate cleansing cucumber, lime and juniper berry sorbet with some yogurt.
The main dessert was a Mexican chocolate bread pudding with avocado-banana puree and corn tortilla ice cream. These flavors went really well all together.

After feeling so stuffed from our meal, I made sure to try some of the candy at the end. The caramel was amazing. All in all, it was an unforgettable dining experience at Providence for my birthday.

5955 Melrose Ave
Los Angeles, CA 90038
(323) 460-4170

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

The Apple Pan, West LA

We went to West LA's The Apple Pan for their hamburgers one afternoon.
The restaurant is an old school burger place that opened in 1947 that serves burgers, a few sandwiches, fries and pie. Inside there is a U shaped counter with about 20 stools and an old cash register.
I ordered a delicious steakburger with cheese and fries. I loved how the soda was served in a paper cone set in a metal holder. This place definitely made up for me not hitting up the In'N'Out on this trip out. In fact, I liked this place better.

10801 W Pico Blvd
Los Angeles, CA 90064
(310) 475-3585

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

Susan Feniger's Street in Hollywood, CA

While visiting LA, we went to Street in Hollywood, chef Susan Feniger's restaurant that is an upscale place makes multi-ethnic street food.
I went in a bit skeptical about the concept. It reminded me of the one-off No Reservations with Tony Bourdain where he had the "At the Table" format and for some reason had some "nightlife queen of NY" participate. She mentioned that she would never eat food from a cart. Well the idea of this restaurant made me think that this restaurant is catered to her prissy type of eating.

After my dinner here though, I think more highly of the restaurant- I like the idea of a meal that is a mashup of cuisines from around the world.
We were first given Millet Puffs. These tasted like rice krispie treats met with Indian spices. A really pleasant starter.

Since we had a large party, we ordered a large number of diverse appetizers.
I picked the Sauteed Black Kale with Refried White Beans. It was served with an anchovy butter and olive bread. I liked the take on beans and greens, plus the anchovy butter.
Our table also like the Lamb Kafta Meatballs. They were really spicy and they had, on the side, cheese in grape leaves smothered in a date sauce.

The Argentine Ricotta Ñoquis simmered in brown butter on a celery root puree were light and heavenly.
We also tried the Smoked Whitefish Salad, the Ono Sashimi, and the disappointing Burmese Lettuce Wraps. All in all, the appetizers alone could be enough for a good meal.

For a main course, I ordered the Tastutage Fried Chicken. It was chicken marinated in soy, miso, & sake, fried up in a rice batter and topped with spicy kewpie mayo. It was basically Japanese fried chicken.

By far, the best entree, was Coprock's Beef Tenderloin Schnitzel. He described as probably the best schnitzel he ever had. It was beautifully pan fried in a wonderfully seasoned breading. The meat was I would say a nice medium. It came with sweet & sour cabbage, a parsnip puree, mustard cream sauce and fried cornichon pickles.

Just prior to dessert, we were served glasses of Vietnamese style coffee, and then we got Turkish doughnuts. They were soaked in a cardomon rose syrup and served with a dollop of sour cream.
Street was a fun dining experience, and definitely worth a trip back to LA.

742 N. Highland
Los Angeles, CA 90038
(323) 203-0500

Monday, December 07, 2009

Recent Woodberry Kitchen Meals & the C.M.P.

I've found myself at Baltimore's Woodberry Kitchen quite a few times this fall. A big reason is that because of their commitment to local food, their menu is constantly changing with the seasons' available ingredients.
On their appetizer menu, I finally had their Pork Buns which are served with soft pretzel rolls and a sweet onion relish. They were really hearty and delicious.

I'm a huge fan of their John the Butcher's plate- which is their charcuterie selection. It changes each time I've had it. Recently, the plate had a fantastic piece of blood sausage (top).
A few months ago, I was really impressed by some delicious headcheese (above).

As far as entrees, a few months ago, I had some of the best tuna I've ever had. The tuna was fresh from New Jersey's shore. It was lightly seared on the outside with a spicy rub, so the inside was essentially raw. The flavor was so fresh, I wonder if the fish was even ever frozen or just shipped fresh on ice a few hours away. It was spectacular.

Recently, I had their stout braised short ribs served with spaetzle and pear. The beef was so tender, I almost mistook it for pork.

On the show The Best Thing I Ever Ate, Duff from Ace of Cakes gave a plug to Woodberry's C.M.P. (Chocolate, Marshmallow & Peanuts). The dessert comes out in a glass with a hard sugar top. When you break into it, inside there is marshmallow fluff, malt ice cream, chocolate sauce and peanuts. So simple and just so good.

2010 Clipper Park Road, No. 126
Baltimore, MD 21211

Friday, December 04, 2009

¡Loteria! at the Farmer's Market, LA

We walked over the the LA Farmer's Market for breakfast one morning. It seemed like most people were grabbing crepes at the French Crepe company, but I was drawn to ¡Loteria!, a Mexican food stand.
I ordered the chilaquiles rojos, which was tortilla chips sauteed in red chile guajillo sauce topped with queso fresco, crema mexicana, onion & cilantro with a side of black beans. I had them topped with fried eggs.
I think this dish is designed for a hangover, but it was darn good that morning.

6333 W 3rd St
Los Angeles, CA 90036

Thursday, December 03, 2009

Spot Dessert Bar, NYC

Petiteseour and I decided to save room for dessert by basically making it dinner. Armed with a Daily Candy deal of two-for-one desserts, we hit the newly opened Spot Dessert Bar within days of its opening. Well-pedigreed pastry chef and owner Pinchet Ong himself was there mixing up cupcake batter, making homemade raspberry drinks, and showing the staff how to plate up beautiful desserts.

Petiteseour had ambitiously thought we should each take advantage of the deal, and get 2 desserts a piece, but I wisely convinced her to go for 2 desserts and 2 cookies.

We chose two of the more Asian-fused creations -- persimmons on fragrant jasmine rice pudding, with passion fruit foam, mascarpone, pistachios, white chocolate shavings, and caramelized tuile crisps; and white miso semifreddo with olive oil cake, macerated raspberries, and crumbly walnut "sand."

The white miso semifreddo was good. If you took a little piece of each element together in one bite, it all worked together. The raspberries were delicious. On the other hand, the persimmon rice pudding was a revelation in flavor with each bite - you tasted something new with each spoonful. We both absolutely LOVED it - I'm craving it as I type this...

Finally we finished with a super thick peanut butter cookie with a nice sprinkle of sea salt on top, and a pretty pink and white frosted green tea shortbread. Petiteseour also grabbed a couple of cookies for the road -- Chinese walnut and ginger oatmeal.

I think this place will definitely earn a spot on our regular girls day rounds.

Spot Dessert Bar
13 St. Marks Place, New York NY 10003

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

Lulu and Mooky's Ice Cream, NY

On another Serious Eats tip, we visited Lulu and Mooky's for liquid nitrogen ice cream. We didn't want to over do it (plus I had had too much dairy earlier at Lovely Day), so we split one.

I opted for a pretty "safe" flavor combination: banana with cardamom. It was cool watching it gel up in the haze of the dry ice fog, and the cardamom was a nice flavor addition to the banana.

The ice cream has a different texture than hard ice cream, and even gelato. Petiteseour thought it was more like a milkshake than anything.

I'd like to go back with 1000yregg, and try a more adventurous combo next time - like chocolate with hot sauce, or truffle oil...

Lulu And Mooky's Liquid Nitrogen Ice Cream
129 Allen Street, New York NY 10002

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

Lovely Day Cafe, NYC

Petiteseour had read about the ginger fried chicken at Lovely Day on Serious Eats. It sounded like a "must-eat," so we decided to meet there for lunch on the start of one of our shopping days.

To round out the meal, we also had veggie dumplings, and we each ordered a soup -- Tom Ga coconut soup for me, and Vegan Miso for Petiteseour.

To be honest, we couldn't see what the hype was about with the chicken. I thought the chicken was dry and the flavor not as intense as the bloggers described. But just about every table had ordered it...

I also OD'ed on my coconut soup. That combined with a green tea latte (which was way too sweet), and I was milked out! Ugh.

Petiteseour thought a good remedy to cut the dairy bloating my stomach was to get something acidic in me. So we ordered the Julienned vegetable salad with sweet chili, peanut and lime. This was the best dish, in my opinion, and it did the trick in settling my gut, but not enough to make we want to go back.

Lovely Day
196 Elizabeth St., New York, NY 10012