Monday, February 26, 2007

Milk, It Does A Body Good?

Perhaps not, at least in the form of the shakes, malts and sundaes at LA's newest ice cream spot--Milk. But nevermind the body, a banana peanut malt (homemade banana ice cream, fresh bananas, malted milk, roasted peanuts), is certainly good for the soul.

It's especially good for soul after having spent over SEVEN HOURS in the ER the night before. Nothing serious, but something that had to be taken care of, however ridiculously slowly. J and I had tried to erase the memory right away with late night diner food and ice cream at Astro Family Restaurant in Silver Lake, but there we received the most disappointing concoctions ever. My "root beer float" consisted of half a glass of ice(!), one-third of a glass of rootbeer, with a scoop of vanilla resting on top. Huh??

Hence, Saturday afternoon we moseyed over to the recently opened Milk, on the southeast corner of Beverly and Pointsettia. Executive chef and owner Bret Thompson has created a happy, high-ceilinged spot, with plenty of homemade ice creams by the cone or dish (I sampled a divine blood orange), 25 cent bonbons, extra-special treats like my banana malt or J's strawberry shortcake malt (malted milk, vanilla ice cream, strawberry sorbet, and buttery, vanilla cookie crumbles), and a baked goods case starring a blue velvet cake made with blueberry puree. The menu also includes a handful of sandwiches and salads, but clearly the dairy products steal the show. If they'd get some blinds to curtail the hot late afternoon sun, it'd be nearly perfect. Hopefully, it won't take another hospital misadventure before we're back.

More Milk reports from Eating LA and Chowhound.

7290 Beverly Boulevard
Los Angeles, CA 90036

Newsflash: The Food Network is on TELEVISION

Recently, celeb chef Anthony Bourdain got the foodblog community all atwitter over his commentary on the Food Network's biggest stars. Sure, the comments were mildly humorous, worth a read on a boring workday afternoon, but I'm amazed at the righteous indignation of the comments to his post (and the ones on the follow up posts by Michael Ruhlman, a food writer). Foodies are just disgusted, disgusted I tell you, with the dreck on the food network. It is a moral outrage.

Um, hello? The Food Network is on television. Have ya checked out what's on television these days? Wifeswap, anyone? Desperate Housewives? So NoTORIous? American Idol? Queer Eye for the Straight Guy? Entertaining, maybe. Highbrow, no. And guess what, you grumpy food fanatics, complaining that the Food Network shows are all about selling viewers stuff? DUH! That's kinda the point of the whole medium these days.

Finally, what I find most amusing, are the commenters that complain heartily about the shows, and can complain in very specific detail, outlining every single one of Sandra Lee's ridiculous concoctions on every episode in the past month. Here's a thought--if it's so incredibly horrible, turn it off! Change the channel! Unsubscribe from cable! At the very least get down off your moral high horse long enough to realize it's just TV.

Saturday, February 24, 2007

Bright Ideas at The Edison, Downtown LA

A night at the newly opened Edison in downtown LA was a sure cure for last week's jury duty depression. As I sunk into a leather armchair, inside a repurposed furnace bathed in a hazy light from dim antique bulbs, deep in the bowels of a former power plant, bourbon swizzle in my hand, the six hours I'd spent viewing security camera footage in the courtroom slipped my mind. The cavernous space is just so damn cool---lots of cozy corners with comfy chairs, dramatic industrial metalwork and machinery, David Bowie on the jukebox, and friendly, competent bartenders.

Like most of the drinks on the specialty cocktail menu, my bourbon concoction was on the sweet side, thanks to the apricot brandy and ginger ale. So easy to drink, I downed it quickly and moved on to a well-constructed Manhattan, better for sipping. Fellow blogger LA/OC Foodie tried some of the other special drinks on a recent visit, including the Lady MacBeth and Steel Trap (visit her site for the details).

The kitchen's not yet up and running, but the website menu promises some old school treats--deviled eggs, crab louie, shrimp cocktail--as well as basic upscale bar food--sweet potato fries, pressed pork sandwich, fried calamari. In the meantime, you're welcome to head next door to Pitfire Pizza Company, order a pie, and bring it back to the Edison.

It's open Wednesday thru Saturday, and has some "cocktail hour" specials until 8 pm--when we visited all specialty drinks were 1/2 price. Downtown has long been one my favorite LA neighborhoods, and the addition of the Edison is just another excuse to head east, not west. For another report, check out Eater LA's glowing (ha!) review.

The Edison
108 W. 2nd St #101 (in the alley)
Los Angeles, CA

Lightbulb photo by Jason Rowland

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Retreat to Hermosa Beach

My parents escaped the Midwestern winter last weekend, and treated J and me to a few nights at the lovely Beach House hotel in Hermosa Beach. Our oceanfront suite was steps away from the surf, and the room's fireplace, jacuzzi tub, abundance of pillows, and stereo system made for a decadent retreat. Though we could have easily spent the whole time alternating between lazing on the beach and lazing in our rooms, we did venture forth for meals, and we found some standouts.

The best was La Sosta Enoteca, a cozy spot on a residential block right on the border between Hermosa and Manhattan Beach. The Italian, specifically Venetian, pasta menu features a favorite of mine, risi i bisi, as well as gnocchi in lobster sauce, multiple risottos and various homemade noodles. My parents went for the lobster gnocchi--light potato dumplings enveloped in a creamy sauce with small lobster pieces. I settled on the risotto with taleggio and speck (smoked mountain ham). Richly flavored, it was one of the better risottos I've had outside of my own kitchen. I also started with a sweetly-dressed salad of arugula and radicchio, a pleasing contrast to my risotto, simple and satisfyingly crisp. Had we not snacked back at the hotel, we'd likely have ordered a starter of meats and cheese--they have quite the selection. With all the hard surfaces, the place is LOUD and the music playing when we arrived (some kind of thump-thump-thump techno type garbage) didn't help, but the soundtrack soon settled on some Miles Davis, making for a more relaxing meal.

Mediterraneo, right on the pedestrian-only strip leading to the Hermosa pier, was a pleasant surprise. Its shady patio was the setting for a lazy lunch comprised of a handful of tapas (which you order like sushi, by checking off your picks on a slip of paper), a Spanish Cobb Salad (serrano ham, cabreles cheese), a gyro and a chicken sandwich--accompanied by some beers and, in my case, a tasty mojito (that traditional mediterranean drink). The prices were right, the food was flavorful, and best of all, we felt like we were on an exotic vacation, less than an hour away from home.

La Sosta Enoteca
2700 Manhattan Ave
Manhattan Beach, CA 90254

73 Pier Ave
Hermosa Beach, CA 90254

What I've Learned While On Jury Duty

1--One bag of Peanut M&M's, carefully rationed, will get you through an afternoon of testimony.

2--Pitfire Pizza Company (interior, right) serves up a crispy, thin crust, flavorful, individual-sized pie with better-than-usual toppings, such as the artichoke special I savored. Tomorrow I plan to try the folded pizza with fennel sausage, but I'll have to bypass the newly added wine and beer menu.

3--When searching for a good bento lunch box in Little Toyko, don't bother with Sushi&Teri in the Japanese Village Plaza, even if it is full of people (often [but not always, for example: Cheesecake Factory] busy = good spot). For $10, you get a bland bento that'll leave you wanting more.

4--Fiore Natural Italian Yogurt, also in the Japanese Village Plaza, seems to have a new, or perhaps secondary name, If Frozen Yogurt--the signage confuses. It also has a new flavor of froyo--blackberry--which was mighty tasty, though the kiwi and mango toppings weren't as fresh as I'd have liked.

5--A law degree does not equal intelligence or eloquence. Okay, this I had already guessed, but the jury duty? Proves the theory.

M&M picture from M&M website; Pitfire photo from Tales of an LA Addict, who has a lovely flickr photoset highlighting a pizza and wine tasting at Pitfire.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

From Mexico to Korea via Paris
On Valentine's, a Love Note to Los Angeles

Monday night I was deep in the west valley, looking for a quick bite to eat before a meeting. Yoshinoya? Um, no. Jack in the Box? No way. KFC? Not a chance. Wait, what's that neon light in the strip mall up ahead? Casa de Taco? Open 24 hours? Menudo on Sundays? Sold. $4 bought me two carnitas tacos with a citrus-y salsa verde, rice, beans and soda. I considered skipping my meeting and staying in this cozy joint, listening to Mexican country on the jukebox and joining the other patrons in swapping b.s. with the guy behind the counter, but my Spanish's not so good, and work called.

Fast forward to Tuesday morning. I was actually driving to the office (usually I'm a public transit gal), and decided to take a short detour down Western Ave to Paris Baguette Cafe and treat my coworkers to some breakfast pastries. This unexpected chain cafe comes to LA via South Korea, where over 1500 locations exist. I'd never been, but heard good things from others, and I wasn't disappointed. This self-service cafe (you grab a box, tongs, and go to town) produces a wonderfully flaky pastry and stocks the standards--chocolate croissants, apple turnovers--as well as Asian-influenced treats like a sweet potato pastry twist, and red bean buns. My favorite was the banana pastry, full of vanilla-y, banana cream, topped with banana slices.

This decadent breakfast was just barely topped by Tuesday's lunch at Mapo, a Korean restaurant just around the corner from my office. I snagged a seat among the businessmen and tucked into the best bibimbap (called dolsot, pictured left) I've had in Koreatown. It came sizzling in a big stone pot, and the bottom layer of rice crisped and carmelized on the bottom, adding a crunchy just-short-of-burnt taste to the already flavorful bowl.

Yes, Los Angeles, it's taken me four long years, but I love ya.

Pastry photos from Paris Baguette's website; bibimbap photo from Il Primo Uomo

Casa de Taco

7300 Topanga Canyon Boulevard Suite 8
Canoga Park, CA 91303-3333

Paris Baguette
125 N. Western Ave.
Los Angeles 90004

Strip mall at northwest corner of Normandie and 6th

Monday, February 12, 2007

Only 5 Ingredients in Haagen-Dazs

An ice cream craving hit late Saturday night, and coffee Haagan-Dazs was the best my neighborhood Albertson's had to offer. I was pleasantly surprised to discover the short and sweet ingredient list on my container: Cream, Skim Milk, Sugar, Egg Yolks, Coffee. That's it! Sure, one serving still contains nearly 55% of my daily saturated fat intake, but it's all-natural fat, and since I can pronounce every ingredient, foodie guru du jour, Michael Pollan, would give me a gold star (well, maybe silver since it's not locally made).

Sunday, February 11, 2007

Puffed Chai Apple Pancake

apples at the Ferry Plaza Farmers' Market, San Francisco, September 2006

Looking for a decadent way to start your Saturday morning? You must try this puffed apple pancake recipe from Bon Appetit, but substitute powdered chai latte mix (from Trader Joe's or elsewhere) for the three tablespoons sugar. Your kitchen will smell delightful, and your family members will be in your debt for the rest of the weekend.

I know posting's been light here at Erin's Kitchen over the past few months, but have you read all of my Los Angeles restaurant reports--both east-ish and west-ish? Howabout my San Francisco updates? You have? Well then, thank goodness the internet is endless--you should check out the new blogs I just added to my sidebar--you'll love the veggie recipes at Superspark, the photos at Fer Food, and the latest updates on brand new restaurants at LA & OC Foodventures.

Cheap Eats in Highland Park: Huaraches and More

Anyone who tells you good food is too expensive in Los Angeles isn't trying very hard. Sure, you can spend a fortune at Cut or Urasawa, but you'd have to try hard to spend more than $10 a person anywhere on York Boulevard, the delectable culinary thoroughfare of Highland Park--and you'll likely have more fun doing it.

El Huarache Azteca is a small Mexico City-style eatery specializing in its eponymous dish (LA Times photo, left)--a sandal shaped fried masa (corn) patty, stuffed with beans and topped with meat, queso fresco, cilantro, and a squeeze of salsa, at your prefered level of spiciness (ours: wimpy white person). You choose your meat--J was smart and went with marinated pork, I gambled on the chicharron, which I thought would result in crispy, fried pork skin. Unfortunately, I received gelatinous, sauteed pork skins, which even for a porcine-loving girl like me was a bit much. I lost the skins, scarfed the huarache, and wasn't too put out since it merely cost $2.50, plus $1 for my tamarindo agua fresca.

To ensure full satisfaction, however, we walked a couple blocks east and I finished the afternoon at La Estrella, a permanently parked taco truck, one of multiple locations. Bursting with juicy pork meat and dripping with a spicy-thirty-seconds-after-you-taste-it salsa rioja, my $1 carnitas taco made me roll my eyes with delight, and J jealously eyed it, almost wishing he hadn't liked his marinated pork covered huarache quite so much.

Another one bites the dust on my cheap to-eat list. If you have a recommendation, leave a comment and I'll add it to the list. Must be east of La Cienega.

The 2007 Erin's Kitchen Cheap To-Eat List (in no particular order)

Angeli Caffe (thx, Gastronomy 101)
Annapurna (thx, Kalyn's Kitchen--it's not east, but she's not a local, so it counts)
Casa Diaz (via Taco Hunt)
China Islamic (thx, Chez Shoes)
El Huarache Azteca (thx, Chez Shoes)
Food Garden Restaurant (thx, Melting Wok)
Golden Deli (thx, Anon)
Guelaguetza (via myself)
Halal Tandoori (via Eating LA)
J & J Restaurant (thx, LA-OC Foodie)
La Curva (via Foodie Universe)
Los Balcones de Peru (via All Kinds of Yum)
Noshi Sushi (thx, Rachael)
Paris Baguette (via LA Ritz)
Shin Sen Gumi Ramen (thx, Tableau Vivant)
Soot Bull Jeep (via Colleen Cuisine)
Zeke's Smokehouse (via Best of LA)

Friday, February 09, 2007

Farmers' Market, Firefly and Friends

The Thursday night farmers' market in South Pasadena has long been a favorite of mine. As much as I love the Sunday Hollywood market, buying my produce Thursday night is much more conducive to a weekend of cooking, and the South Pasadena market has more than enough bounty, without the crowds. Plus, there's a couple of patches of green grass to plop down on and enjoy your tamales, buttery sauteed mushrooms, or chilaquiles.

Last night I met my old friend Jill of Eye Level Pasadena and new friend Emily of Superspark for a quick tour of the market, and then tapas and Sangria at another favorite South Pasadena spot, Firefly. Every Thursday, they feature ingredients from the market in a small, reasonably priced tapas menu, under their twinkling tent. Last night's crispy tempura fried asaparagus and pear fritters were standouts--and a steal at around $6/piece. Each dish was more than big enough for each of us to have multiple bites. Topped off with a large $20 pitcher of tangy sangria, a great night all around.

South Pasadena Farmers' Market
Meridian Ave & Mission St
4 PM-8 PM, Thursday

1009 El Centro Ave
South Pasadena, CA 91030

Market photo by Jill; Firefly photo from the restaurant's website

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Tomato Confit, By Me!

tomatos, pre-roasting and confit-ing

Way back in October, I devoted a night and a day to creating and canning tomato confit (roasted tomatos preserved in olive oil), following the instructions of fellow foodblogger Chez Pim. I will admit, though I'd made my way through multiple batches of jam, I was a bit concerned about the botchulism potential of canning tomatos in a boiling water bath (some nervous nellies argue for a pressure cooker).

However, subscribing to the belief that if my canned tomatos were really full of poison, I'd know by the look and the smell, I sent off many jars at Christmas to some coworkers. And since they've eaten them and have not dropped dead, I've decided it's safe to open the cans I saved at home. Boy am I glad I did--these suckers are sweet and delicious. The slow overnight roast in a low, low oven concentrated everything good in a end of summer tomato. I highly encourage you to consider doing this as soon as the 2007 tomatos roll in--it's wonderful to pop open a jar of these and know that you made them yourself, and I imagine if I lived somewhere cold I'd appreciate it even more!

My favorite use so far was mixing them with some pesto, then spreading the sauce on homemade pizza dough, topped with mozzarella, bell peppers and mushrooms. Be sure to use the oil in the jars as well, it's perfumed with sweet tomato smell and the scent of the marjoram and thyme sprigs I tucked in each jar.

Monday, February 05, 2007

Breakfast at Blair's, Silver Lake

At left: Blair's at night.

The rocker moms' favorite "fancy" restaurant in Silver Lake now serves breakfast/brunch, and after one visit, I'm a fan. It's easy to like Blair's new breakfast menu since I love me some scrambled eggs, and they have many different versions including the earthy serving of ova, shiitakes and morels I chowed on Saturday morning. Served with buttery sauteed arugula and even more buttery fried potatos and shallots, this dish was lovely, and thanks to the arugula and shallots, different (and better!) than your average hipster brunch dish.

However, if eggs aren't your thing, the menu doesn't provide many options, at least for breakfast (for those of you who will "brunch" on lunch items, it's another story). J settled for the blueberry pancakes---his other option was oatmeal, or any number of pastries. Speaking of pastries, I've praised Blair's dessert donuts in the past, and now they serve them at room temperature for breakfast, still delightfully decadent, stuffed with vanilla cream.

Other morning perks at Blair's: good coffee with frequent refills, multiple copies of the New York Times, a chill soundtrack, and a take-out counter for coffee and pastries. In a nod to the early-rising parents in the neighborhood, breakfast starts at 7 AM, and they're open all day until 10 PM.

Another Blair's brunch review here at Chowhound.

2903 Rowena Ave
Los Angeles, CA 90039