Tuesday, May 4, 2010

June gloom in May

I call this kind of fog "Freddie" fog because, like my friend Freddie, it's AWOL.

I kind of like the limited visibility, and the cover was especially appreciated since I forgot sunscreen this morning.

The best thing, though, is the quiet. No planes this morning.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Let's Talk About Chicks, Man

So tantalizingly close to being done, but still stuck in the mode of waiting and approvals, I find myself with a spare moment to share with you a little home cooking.

Saturday, both BoW and I had to step into the office in the morning. For me, it was just to grab something I had forgotten on my way out on Friday, so I made a morning of it, rode to The Lot, and got my ears lowered after killing some time digging through vinyl at Melrose Music.

I didn't have a lock with me, so I was debating about what I could get to eat on my way home when I had an epiphany. See, when I get on a roll with cooking a lot, the contents of my fridge and pantry become the contents of my mind. It becomes very easy to extemporize, and I generally have plenty of ingredients on hand with which to do so.

In this case, I had some eggs, some tortillas from Taco Tuesday, some salsa, and some cheese. Thus, I had chilaquiles.

I'm not going to pretend that my Ezekiel tortillas, salsa from a jar, or "Mexican" sprinkle cheese make these anywhere near authentic. I will say that making a tasty lunch for yourself from leftovers at almost no cost might. Also, this is some seriously good hangover food. Keep it in mind.

Another summer pleasure we've rediscovered is BBQ chicken. At a certain point, one must eat the fowl-of-no-flavor if only because our culture has deemed it the protein of choice, making it inexpensive, relatively healthy, and completely ubiquitous. Bourdain has asserted that it is the meat for those who don't know what they want to eat, but for us at home, it's more the meat that we have to figure out something other than tacos to eat it in.

A while ago friend, vampire, and road warrior of the I-5 variety, Count Reeshard, bestowed upon us the gift of sauce from one of his usual haunts in the Central Valley, Willow Ranch BBQ.

Sadly, the bottle remained unopened for several months over the winter as I worked and really just wasn't feeling the BBQ so much. Thankfully, that long, dark time has passed, and into some tupperware with about a quarter cup of sauce went about 12oz of chicken breast. After a long soak over the course of a day in the fridge, they went on a hot grill, basted occasionally with more sauce to take advantage of some capillary action, and finally off the grill and onto my plate with yet more sauce.

If you're not familiar with capillary action, do a little experiment the next time you marinate and grill any kind of meat (or even tofu). Make about 25-30% more marinade than usual. Set the extra aside before adding the meat. Then, when you take the meat off, set it in a bowl of the extra marinade (turn it over to coat well) and cover while it rests. Not only will you benefit from resting the meat before slicing, you'll also notice that the meat will have soaked up a good portion of the liquid during that time. Props to AB.

Anywho, this is some seriously good sauce. Thick, rich, just slightly sweet, but not without spice, it would complement just about any grilled or smoked meat. Many thanks again to the Count and safe travels to all who must traverse the San Joaquin.

Thursday, August 6, 2009


Well, it has been a long time since the last post, and while I would never cave to public pressure, my absence has been noted by the likes of The Good Doctor and questions have been raised by the Life of Kiley.

I finally finished work on the feature that had been keeping me busy in the spring right about the same time that my new, custom Independent Fabrications Crown Jewel was completed by my dear friends at Topanga Creek Bicycles. I introduce to you, The Pearl.

After a quick trip to the hinterland to celebrate a milestone with the parents, we returned for a few days of summer, enjoying my time off, riding my new bike, and cooking things that take me back to my roots, like ravioli in a butter-sage sauce

and, of course, hot dogs.

Even the trip provided some unexpected culinary interest. Take these lovely oysters fetched while killing time in the Windy City before meeting family for dinner, courtesy Farmerie 58.

Then came the big trip: a long drive up the 5 to Seattle. Our main event was Seattle to Portland, an opportunity for me to spend quality time with The Pearl, the BoW, my bro-in-law, the future governor of Washington, and his family, who supported us along the route. Frankly, that's an entire entry, but it's really more the domain of BoW as most of the food came in bar form along the way.

On the way back, we did the coast route through WA and OR, camping some, eating much, truly enjoying some amazing places. In Long Beach, WA, I ate a whole crab.

The mouth of the Columbia River is one of the more amazing things I have experienced in my life. Legitimately awesome. Plus, I got to show my lady one of my favorite places, Ecola State Park in OR, where we had a little FOC meeting.

When we got to Eureka, we had lunch at the Lost Coast Brewpub before turning inland to do some quality camping in Humboldt Redwoods State park. I'll leave that at wow.

On the way back, we stopped for delicious breakfast at the Bluebird Cafe in Ukiah.

Note the excellent fresh and homemade pastries.

Happy to be home and enjoy the rest of the lazy summer in earnest, I prepared by purchasing an appropriate bottle to enjoy at the culmination of this year's Tour de France.

However, that was slightly spoiled by being recalled to work, slaving over a hot Avid making the funny for DVD.

One of the good things about returning to work is that it afforded us a chance to go out to Fraîche last night for our ninth anniversary. I've never written about Fraîche before, which is a travesty, and I will save the overall for a dedicated piece on it and Akasha that I have outlined in my head dating back to my birthday about two months ago. I know, slacker. Suffice to say it's real good. Steak tartare is a standard on the menu.

Appetizer special, homemade polenta with delicious ham and cheese, little sprinkle of balsamic that tasted like honey.

Again, house-standard pappardelle with braised oxtail and mustard greens.

Awesome summer flavors in the seasonal francobolli, with sweet corn, brown butter, and almonds. So rich, but soooooo goood.

One final note. Our absolute favorite neighborhood restaurant, Fioretto, has closed its doors. The Gianni family came to the end of their lease and decided they couldn't support the endeavor anymore. It's a sad loss for us, but I hope it's a new beginning and opportunity for them. I just have to find out where he's cooking now....

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Cruisin' for Burgers

I really thought it hadn't been that long. For the last month, I've kind of been putting this off, thinking the end is coming, and time will be mine again.

I also though I had made a couple more stops here in the last two months than I actually had.

Regardless, the show is nearly over, and I'm in that wonderful spot where I still have a job, but it tends to only last for a sane-seeming 9-10 hours a day. So, I have both the time and the money to eat! Also, to ride. In fact, tomorrow is the LA River Ride, and BoW will be riding her first century. Plus, I got to meet someone that is gong to be very special to me for the first time today. Her name is Pearl, and you'll be hearing more about her in a week or so. In the meantime, back to eating.

I'm skipping over some meals that I have photographed and thoroughly enjoyed. I can't help it. Sometimes, you just have to clear the decks and start over. Also, that's why I feel a move coming on as well...

With relaxed work days comes the ability to actually get out of the little box with my Avid in it and out into the world, to get my nourishment off of reusable plates instead of recyclable cardboard boxes or worse, planet-killing styrofoam clamshells. I've been to a couple of great spots, owing to the fact that my remaining coworkers are also lovers of food and that our work location is right on the edge of two great restaurant neighborhoods. Standouts have included Loteria Grill in Hollywood, Yabu on La Cienega, and the East Valley breakfast classic, Corner Cottage.

On Thursday, we had the opportunity to try out The Golden State, the hot new burger shop on Fairfax. There is a lot going on in that neighborhood right now. BoW has recently been to the nearby Animal, home to Food and Wine's current best new chefs, Vinny Dotolo and Jon Shook. I fear the turducken syndrome of them with their bacon explosion approach to cuisine, but both my dear wife and her dining companion, the inimitable Mellie, assure me that is not to be missed.

I can happily say the same for The Golden State. The menu is small and simple, as is the kitchen and most of the people working in it. We all had burgers.

Father's Office good for $10. In fact, the availability of ketchup and mustard and the addition of bacon to the burger formula may even tip in their favor. The meat itself was fresh and perfectly medium-rare; the cheese and arugula were well-chosen and well used. Also, bacon.

Each burger (or other sandwich–I'll be going back) is served with a side, of which I chose the jalapeño slaw. It had a nice blend of peppery zing and creamy coolness. One of my friends had the fries, which were fresh-cut, and the other had the sweet potato wedges, also fresh-cut and really delicious.

We also got an order of the Persian cucumber salad. This is a dish near and dear to me. My mother made cucumber salad frequently when I was a kid, and exposure to variations on the theme on subsequent trips to Russia and Bulgaria have made homemade pickles a part of my regular repertoire. Persian cukes are very popular and readily available here in SoCal, and this salad made good use of their firm flesh and slight bitterness. Seasoned and dressed simply, the parsley was a major player, adding interest and depth to the wonderful green flavor.

They also have Scoops ice cream, if you're into that sort of thing, and they have beer (including draft), wine, and the good kind of soda. The root beer is even draft. And I know a little something about root beer.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

The Light at the End of the Tunnel

Still pretty crazed at work right now, but we're closing in on the goal. Even though I'm 11 days into my second 13-day week this month, I feel good today. Maybe I'm just getting acclimated to working until 1AM. Maybe being on the summer side of the vernal equinox has given me some added strength. Maybe I'm just as beat and delusional, but I can't tell any more. At least it's not Public Enemies.

Today is our second preview, and we're in much better shape than we were for the first, both in terms of the content and the execution. That makes for a positive attitude and outlook as well as a chance to breathe today. Last time, we used our emergency time to take care of emergencies. This time, everything has gone smoothly thus far.

Even though I was at work until after 1AM, I still was up by 9, so I took advantage of the time to do a little shopping.

Cheap wine and expensive liquor kinda sums up my drinking habits, and it certainly describes this particular trip to Beverage Warehouse

I had some Miller's gin at Ford's the last day off I had, and one of my crewmates got a bottle of Plymouth for the cutting room the other day, so I've been thinking about small-batch gin lately. This Leopold's certainly passes Count Reeshard's label test, so I decided to try it. I have the opportunity to indulge in Taco Thursday this week, so I grabbed some 1800, and the Blavod is in memory of Dr. Amelia Haygood, who was a big fan and one of m drinking mentors.

I also got a chance to stop at Ronnie's Diner and have some good old American breakfast. Ronnie's is in the same strip mall as Fioretto, and just up the street from Beverage Warehouse and the LA Wine Co. I like that neighborhood.

Notice how the contents combine with the egg in the omelet rather than just being wrapped inside like a crepe. You probably can't tell from this pic, but those red potatoes have a really nice griddle sear on them. The coffee is strong and dark, and salsa is the preferred condiment. This is SoCal after all. Never disappointing, and $11 with tax (now 9.25%!) and tip.

After our setup, the crew went across the street for a little sushi at Sugarfish, the Marina Del Rey outpost of the famed Nozawa. Nozawa is known as the "sushi nazi." He only serves omakase, and is known to fiercely ridicule American trends in sushi, like California rolls and dipping everything in soy and wasabi. Of course, our tastes as consumers have developed, and we're all beginning to realize how right he is.

Sugarfish takes his "Trust Me" concept to the casual diner. The "light" lunch is $13.50, the full combo is $23.50, and a full complement of à la carte options is available. Drinking was not an option today, but I will return to sample some of their small, but varied sake list. Highlights of the meal included tuna sashimi; buttery albacore; thin, nearly transparent snapper; and delightfully fresh and mild uni. The house ponzu was especially tangy and refreshing. It made you feel like the yuzu was grown out back. The knife work was excellent, especially for the price, yielding perfectly thin, delicate slices of fish, respectful of the grain and texture and providing a more than satisfactory level of taste ad texture. 

All in all, it's a pretty good day to go to a favorite spot and discover another that's really good. Of course, at this point, any meal not served in a clamshell or cardboard box is a thing of true joy and beauty.