Monday, April 30, 2012

Animal, LA

Foie Gras Loco Moco

On my last night in LA, I went with my friend Dan to Animal for a full tilt offal feast. When we first arrived, it reminded me of Au Pied De Cochon with its casual atmosphere combined with a truly indulgent menu.
As a penance for the prior few days and for the meal to come, we started with a vegetarian course: a salad of shredded baby kale, pecorino cheese, lemon chili vinaigrette, and breadcrumbs.

Our secord course was recommneded by the ladies of Lindy & Grundy butchers, friends of Dan. When we had visited their shop, they wrote up a list of their favorites from Animal on a piece of paper. We had the hamachi tostada. It had an Asian flavor to it as it was sprinkled with peanuts and a fish sauce vinaigrette.
Our next course was pig tail segments cooked "bufffalo wing style" with Ranch dressing. The skin was crispy while the tail meat was tender and delicious.

Fourth course was on special for the day: pork head cheese with fried corn bread threads, & mustard sauce. The head cheese was beautiful, and fatty.
We followed with crispy pig ear with chili and lime served underneath a sunny side up fried egg. It had flavors reminiscent of Mexican cuisine, very fresh tasting.

The sixth course was a roasted marrow bone topped with chimchurri sauce and caramelized onions. The chimchurri was an inspired replacement to the traditional parsley salad I've had before.

Our 7th item was Animal's well known foie gras loco moco (see top). It consisted of a bed of rice, a hamburger patty topped with Spam, then a piece of foie gras, smothered in a beef gravy, finally capped with a fried sunny side up quail egg. This decadent take of the Hawaiian classic was one of my favorite things I've eaten this year.

I was still reeling from the last course to recall what Dan had for dessert. I think it was a carrot cake with root beer foam. I opted for just a few bites of the tres leches cake as my finish.
Animal is a spectacular restaurant. In some ways though, I'm glad I don't live near a place like it as I would get into serious trouble with my waistline and cholesterol levels.

435 North Fairfax Avenue
Los Angeles, CA
(323) 782-9225

Friday, April 27, 2012

Robata JINYA, LA

I had a nice supper at West Hollywood's Robata Jinya. My friend Dan raved about their Hakata Tonkotsu Ramen, which is the same style of ramen they serve at Ippudo in NYC. The broth is a fatty white broth made with pork bones. When the restaurant started serving this, they used to only make enough broth for 20 bowls/day. We both got our own bowls, and boy was it good. The ramen had a great chew to it and a wonderful alkali flavor, and the broth was wonderful. I cleaned the bowl.

Since their specialty was "robata grill", we ordered a few skewers with our meal. First off was a set of shishito peppers. On special, they had a tender miso grilled beef tongue. We finished off with a skewer of incredible chicken thigh "oysters".

8050 West 3rd Street
Los Angeles, CA
(323) 653-8877

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

ink., LA

 When I went to Los Angeles, my friends and I had a memorable dinner at Top Chef winner Michael Voltaggio's restaurant ink. We all decided to get the tasting menu, but we ordered some additional appetizers.
First was roasted shisito peppers topped with almond-bonito sand with a side of tofu mustard. The peppers were nice and spicy.
We also got an order of Malpeque oysters topped with an oyster leaf and mignonette ice. We were instructed to eat everything in a single bite. They were delicious.

 Our first course of the tasting menu was a beautifully composed plate of scallops, tofu, and rice crackers sprinkled with a black vinaigrette and cocoa. It was nested on a small bed of green tapioca.
The second course, our table agreed, was our favorite. In a take on chicken and waffles, Voltaggio had a beautiful portion of foie gras nestled in between waffle crackers served with a line of smoked maple syrup that had a consistency of marshmallow. If that weren't enough, he added small dollops of sriracha sauce. The combination of flavors were incredible.

The third course was a wonderful portion of sturgeon served on a bed of mushroom oatmeal and topped with mushroom "hay". The "hay" were dehydrated mushrooms. To say this dish was an umami bomb is an understatement.
Our fourth course was "steak frites". The beef was a beef rib cap which was very tender and tasty, and it was accompanied by "flavors of béarnaise", a kind of deconstructed version of the sauce.

As my dessert course, I selected a line of grapefruit curd with cilantro sorbet, lime meringue and avocado. It had more of a savory taste to it.
My friends ordered the apple with caramel and burnt wood ice cream.
I would dare say, I enjoyed my meal at ink. more than my experiences at Volt.

8360 Melrose Ave.
Los Angeles, CA 90069
(323( 651-5866

Monday, April 23, 2012

Lobsta Truck, LA

 We grabbed a snack after a movie at the Arclight Cinemas at Lobsta Truck which was just parked by Amoeba Records up the block. I was impressed. The lobster roll was only $12, cheaper than lobster roll food trucks back in NYC and DC. All the bread and lobster is shipped from New England as well. I ordered mine cold with mayo.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Umami Burger, LA

Los Angeles is a city of a lot of burger options. On this recent trip, I went to Umami Burger, a regional chain, and I had their namesake burger. It came topped with shitake mushrooms, caramelized onion, roast tomato, a housemade umami ketchup, and a "parmesan crisp". It was a nice and tasty burger, and even the bun was delicious, stamped with their logo.
We also shared, on special that day, a truffled cheese burger on top of a bed of their fries. My friend opted for their Hatch chile burger which also looked pretty great.

Friday, April 20, 2012

eggslut, LA

My first morning in LA, I grabbed a great breakfast at a food truck in West Hollywood parked by a coffee shop, The Comissary, called eggslut.
They make every item to order, so it takes a little time, but boy was it worth it. In the meantime, a lot of folks went to grab coffee at The Comissary.

I ordered "Thee Slut" which was a coddled egg in a jar. The lower layer was a wonderful and buttery potato puree, and all of it was topped with a sprinkle of chives. It came with some toast for dipping.
My friend Dan ordered the simple scrambled eggs on toast which they made really well, on a slow heat to give the egg a great texture.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

ink.sack, Los Angeles, CA

 I visited Los Angeles last month, and on my first evening in town, I went to Top Chef winner Michael Voltaggio's sandwich shop, ink.sack for dinner. It had a surprisingly affordable menu, with each sandwich costing between $4-$6. I decided to get two sandwiches.
 First was the C.L.T., consisting of chicken liver mousse, curried chicken skin, lettuce, and tomato. The bread was good, but I would have liked it to be a little more crusty. However, the chicken liver was pretty great.
My second sandwich was a banh mi made with pork pork butt, pork belly, chicharrónes, and pickled vegetables. It was really nice and fatty.
We also shared a few sides: housemade BBQ pork rinds and Old Bay seasoned potato chips.

8360 Melrose Avenue
Los Angeles, CA 90069
323) 651-5866

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

All You Can Eat Hot Pot at Hunan Taste, Catonsville, MD

 Well, after a few months break from posting, I'm back to the blog. Over the winter, I managed to get a group of friends back to Hunan Taste, which on weeknights, serves all you can eat hot pot.
We opted for the split hot pot with one side of regular broth and one side spicy broth. They hand you a list of items you can throw into the broth and you order away.  Our favorites were the lamb, fresh fishballs, and pork meatballs. We also ordered winter melon, mushrooms, bok choy, pork, beef, fish filets, and to finish off the meal, clear noodles blended with the final broth infused by everything that had come before.
718 North Rolling Road
Catonsville, MD 21228
(410) 788-8988

Thursday, April 05, 2012

Federal Donuts, Philadelphia PA

We were on a quest for French export butter-in-a-tin in the Vietnamese groceries in South Philly, so we took the opportunity being in that neighborhood to stop in at the new-ish Federal Donuts.  It's a take-out joint solely serving donuts and fried chicken -- it doesn't get much better than that!

The place stays open until they run out, so we were lucky to still find it open after 5 pm on a Sunday.

The specialty donuts were sold out, but they will fry fresh donuts to order and toss with your choice of sugar and spices.  We got one of each kind:  Appollonia, Indian Cinnamon, and Vanilla-Lavender.  I can't remember exactly what spices were on the Appollonia, but that one (the dark one) was my favorite.  While hot donuts are always good, I have to say, they weren't as decadent as the Fractured Prune (on the Delaware-Maryland shore).  We have been spoiled.

But I'd go back to Federal Donuts for the chicken.  We got a half order for $9 -- a four-piece box.  You could choose either Crispy with a dry topping (Za-atar or Coconut Curry), or Glazed with a wet topping (Chile-Garlic or Honey-Ginger).  I opted for dry, since we were going to have to eat in the car (of the Ikea parking lot no less) and went with coconut curry - it was indeed very crispy - freshly fried a second time and topped with the delicious spices.

It was a great (albeit counterproductive) last meal before I embarked on a 3-day Catalyst Juice Cleanse!  (And as an aside, I didn't document the raw foods and juices I got as part of the cleanse, but the Mexican Lasagna -- made with thinly sliced zucchini, tomato puree, avocado, and hazelnut "cheese" -- was fantastic, as well as the lemon, agave, and cayenne juice. I would happily eat and drink them guilt-free every day!  They really should add the lasagna to the menu at their Jar Bar in Philly.)

Federal Donuts
1219 South 2nd Street
Philadelphia, PA 19147
(267) 687-8258

Catalyst Cleanse Jar Bar
113 S 12th St  Philadelphia, PA 19107

(215) 923-1600

Tuesday, April 03, 2012

Bobolink Dairy and Bakehouse, Milford, NJ

I discovered Bobolink cheese when I was working at Lincoln Center, and would visit their stand at the weekly Greenmarket across the street on Thursdays.  So when they moved their farm to Milford, which is only a hour away from us, I vowed to go for a visit.

Well, it took us a while, but we finally made it out to the Bobolink Dairy on a spring Sunday afternoon.  We first stopped for lunch at the nearby Frenchtown Cafe, where I got a nice spinach, bacon, tomato and cream cheese sandwich, and Redneckhunter got a massive omelette.

Then off to see cows!  The tour was leisurely - probably could have gone faster than the hour it took, but it was informative, and it was a lovely day.  First stop was to see their wood-fired oven, which gets up to 900 degrees Fahrenheit.  They burn wood all night, then stop the fire in the morning, so the temperature regulates to around 500-600 degrees and bake the bread.

We learned how the different grasses on their land in different seasons lead to different flavors imparted to the cheese.  And how the males who didn't make the cut to become future breeders became nice suckled veal. And we got to get right up close to the cows!

The pigs were there for "waste disposal" as the owners put it -- happily eating whey and other by-products of cheese-making.  Seemed like a pretty nice life sleeping all day in a pile -- that us until they become tasty bacon.

The conclusion of the tour was a tasting of pate, cheese, and bread.  The pate was nice and chunky - big hunks of liver, mushrooms mixed in, nice flavor.  Needless to say, we went home with a tub, along with a hunk of cheese.

Bobolink Dairy and Farmhouse
369 Stamets Rd  Milford, New Jersey 08848
(908) 864-7277