Sunday, August 30, 2009

Croquer: Akasha

Akasha Richmond, renowned chef and popular author, widely known for her vegetarian recipes prepares rich and flavorful food made with organic, natural ingredients from sustainable sources at Akasha, her neighborhood eatery located in the historic Hull Building in downtown Culver City.
Keeping the principles of sustainability in mind, the building’s original steel, wood, concrete and brick arches were restored while the design materials pair with a seventies modernity to create a warm and inviting contemporary vibe.It is immediately apparent that local, organic, and handcrafted ingredients are key in Akasha's mission to make great food. Their publicized purveyors include small family farms, organic growers, sustainable and fair trade companies, and artisan food makers.
From the first sip of their signature cocktail the Akasha (Crop organic cucumber vodka, organic pineapple and cucumber juice, martini style) you can taste the love. Like a crisp bite from a garden, this might be the most refreshing cocktail I've tasted all summer.My lunch date Janine ordered the Grilled Open Faced Tempeh sandwich - two slices of toasted levain each piled with tempeh, organic swiss, avocado, daikon sprouts, caramelized onion, roasted red pepper, smoked paprika aioli, with billy bob's rice-pimento cheese. A mighty handful of crunchy sweet potato fries came on the side. This was a delicious, HUGE meal. The tempeh, something I grew to love in Oregon but rarely see on LA menus, was perfection - savory and rich, with a satisfying nutty earthiness. The accoutrements just made it better. Enough for two! Split this!
I opted for the Spiked Turkey Burger - organic turkey mixed with green olives, jalapeño, red pepper, onion, with organic white cheddar and a house made pickle. Sounds great, right? The olives and jalapeño sold me.. But have to say, I was disappointed by the burger itself. I did not taste olive or jalapeño, but definitely the onion and red pepper, bringing to mind midwest meatloaf way before an inventive turkey burger. The bun was a bit thick and spongey for me as well. I ended up eating half of Janine's tempeh (and ALL of my sweet potato fries)!The first thing you see when entering Akasha is a gorgeous bakery case of delectables, so once we were finished with lunch, espressos and mini cupcakes it was! We got one that was vanilla cake with chocolate and a carmelized banana on top. The other was a chocolate cupcake with peanut butter and chocolate on top! Both delicious... What I will get next time (that I didn't see until my way out) is the Salty Chocolate Pecan Tart! Yessir!9543 Culver Blvd. Culver City, CA 90232; 310.845.1700
akasharestaurant.com

Friday, August 28, 2009

En Vitesse: More Sonoran Dogs!

Check out this great NY Times piece delving deeper into the history of the Sonoran Hot Dog I recently covered on my last trip home to Tucson.
“THE problem with American hot dogs is that they’re American,” said Tania Murillo, standing beneath a pink and blue bunny-shaped piñata, as she rang up an order of tortillas at Alejandro’s Tortilla Factory.
“A ketchup-and-mustard hot dog is boring,” continued Ms. Murillo, a high school senior. “They’re not colorful enough. You’ve got to make them colorful, and pile on the stuff. The best hot dogs come from Sonora,” the Mexican state immediately to the south. “Everybody knows that.”
more...

Monday, August 24, 2009

Croquer: Border Grill Truck

This past Saturday I headed to the Silver Lake Art, Craft and Vintage Fair at Micheltorena Elementary School for the sole purpose of finally catching the Border Grill Truck. Proceeded by quite the reputation, I was expecting some real BANG for my buck here! I began to get really hungry as I approached the sleek black truck, adorned with the festive, graffitti-like line art that has become an aesthetic signature of Susan Feniger and Mary Sue Milliken's restaurants' decor.Thoroughly excited by the toothsome menu chock full of yummy-sounding Mexi-delights, my friend and I basically decided we must order one of almost everything.
The most intriguing section of the menu to me was titled "cones".We started with the Green Corn Tamal cone (sweet corn, crema, salsa fresca) and a Peruvian Ceviche cone (mahi mahi, lime, ginger, aji amarillo chile, pickled onion, corn tortilla cone).The sweet corn tamal was a tasty start, but after several bites on the palate resembled creamed sweet corn overwhelmed by crema mexicana in a sno-cone liner more than a good tamale.The Peruvian Ceviche cone on the other hand was the best item we sampled, the lime and ginger bursting open every tastebud to further taste each ingredient with added dimension. Delicious!The Yucatan Pork Taco ( braised achiote pork, black beans, pickled onion, orange jicama slaw) was a gorgeous site. The meat was tender and flavorful, but the bitter/sweet orange slaw was so distracting, it literally bisected the main flavors until almost opposing. "Weird" was our mutual review.
The Cilantro Chicken Taco (tomatillo, creamy salsa fresca) was tasty, although cooked cilantro never seems quite right to me. In the end, either way this taco nothing terribly memorable.Speaking of unmemorable, I unfortunately can't recall even tasting fish in the Crispy Baja Fish Taco (chipotle honey, creamy salsa fresca). The chipotle honey was a nice touch, but the creamy salsa fresca completely doused any other flavor or texture from the small bits of fish, fried dough being the most noticeable ingredient. The Carne Asada Taco (caramelized onion, salsa fresca, guacamole) was par, though the meat too had little flavor. The vibrant guac on top was the tastiest ingredient here.
One other unfortunate aspect, no fault of Border Grill (but apparently a rule made by the fair?) was that they could not sell their beverages out of the truck. This was especially saddening with items such as Watermelon Lemonade and Iced Mexican Coffee (cinnamon, star anise, orange zest, piloncillo syrup)... Bummer!
I also had high hopes for the Churro Bites (dulce de leche infused churros, cinnamon sugar, whipped cream), but at that point opted to stick with what I know and walked around the corner instead for Alegria's Cafe de la Olla (coffee simmered with Piloncillo and cinnamon sticks) and a Lark cupcake, feeling the $20+ we spent at the truck for our somewhat underwhelming lunch was enough.
Perhaps another day for the iced coffee and churros...

The Border Grill Truck can be found every Saturday at the Silver Lake Art, Craft and Vintage Fair. Other regular locations are listed on their site. For up-to-the-minute location, follow on Twitter.

Carnish Culture: People in pizza slice costumes becoming pizzas


Behold, the best site since Scanwiches..
People in pizza slice costumes becoming pizzas

thanks Leilani!

Monday, August 17, 2009

Croquer: Franken's

I learned about this promising new vegan hot dog cart on my friend Saucy's beautiful blog Cigarettejeans. Like Halloween everyday for Smartdog-loving hipsters, Franken's is a roving 100% vegan spooky-themed hot dog stand "taking plant-based food to the streets" outside of cooler-than-you spots like guerilla drive-ins, Pehrspace and the Smell.
Dressed like a Disneyland goth landing his dream job at a concession cart outside the Haunted Mansion in New Orleans Square, Frankens' b/w striped vendors come armed with a mission statement:
We are a Spooky-Theme Mobile Cuisine. Serving up 100% Plant-Based Gourmet Franks Fresh off our Franken-Stand. Dress them with your choice of trimmings! We carry, Mustard (Regular & Spicy Brown), Ketchup, BBQ, Vegenaise, Hot Sauce, Relish, Jalapenos, Kraut, Diced Onions, Freshed Chopped Cilantro, & Pickles. Hand-Cooked Potato Chips and Baked Goodies! Wash it all down with a selection from our variety of healthy and savory sodas.
I'm down, curious what menu item "the Witch" would taste like!

For location follow on twitter and/or myspace (whoa, what's that?)
or contact: TheFrankenStand@yahoo.com

Thx for the tip, Saucy!

Carnish Culture: Chew

I suppose I was a bit of a comic book fan in my early adolescence, filling my lazy pre-driving summer days with swimming, daytime television, and reading comic books. It's been some time since I've been 'pulled in' by a comic, er graphic novel (sure y'all, it's totally the same as reading a book); the Watchmen covered in dust, half-read on my nightstand since before the film version went into pre-production. But something caught my eye the other day. Positive I'm not alone in noticing recently everyone's obsession with good eating, dining, and the term "foodie", I was still surprised to see it cross over into the comic world.. Kind of.
Enter Chew.
Learning about this twisted, culinarily-effed-up near-future comic via an NPR write-up, I decided it might be time to give the comic shop another try.
I picked up a copy of the new issue #3 the other day at Secret Headquarters (Chew is already into its fourth round of reprints due to mad popularity, thus issues 1 and 2 are on back-order). The art by Rob Guillory is immediately delectable, the bizzaro story from John Layman (Marvel Zombies vs. Army of Darkness, House of M: Fantastic Four and PUFFED) chock full of clever devices and laugh out loud audacity. So what is it about exactly, you ask? OK, well like I said while it's loosely based on the food world, don't blame me if you lose your lunch:
Chew is set a few years in the future, after the government has declared chicken illegal in the wake of a bird-flu epidemic. Under this Poultry Prohibition, a black market thrives; chicken speakeasies are everywhere.
We meet Tony Chu, a detective who happens to be a Cibopathic, meaning he gets psychic impressions from whatever he eats. A bite from a piece of fruit can tell him the life of a tree, a burger the grisly end of a farm animal, and well, on the crime scene... You get the idea where that may lead (oh, and it does).
Then Tony meets a food critic who possesses a gift similar to his own - she can write about food with such precision and vividness that readers of her column actually experience the flavors and aromas she describes. The problem - she's grown disillusioned and has decided to only review restaurants poorly rated by the health department, literally sickening everyone who reads her reviews. For Tony, it equals love at first sight.
Check out some clips of the tasty art below, and inquire with your local comic book store if they do indeed have any morsels of Chew left, or when the new batch will be out of the oven.

click sample images below to zoom

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Croquer: El Guero Canelo

Known as the best place to get a Sonoran hot dog outside of Mexico, El Guero Canelo's cult status came about as a bit of a Tucson Cinderella story. Opened as a 6x8 taco stand in 1993 by the Contreras family following a trip to Mexico, Guero Canelo El Segundo Restaurant‎ now fills a massive 20,000 square foot lot on Oracle at Grant. The original cart sits out front in the parking lot as a 'modest' reminder of their success.Inside the warehouse-like space, diners voices and order numbers being called echo off of the corrugated aluminum roof, green/white/red piñatas and metal-topped picnic tables with Mexican flag painted benches. An ordering counter lines the east wall, the rest of the space wide open seating, divided only by a massive condiment counter that is more like a salad bar buffet of Mexican delectables. Freshly grilled whole jalapeños, onions and mushrooms sit beside several varieties of salsa, pico de gallo, cilantro, cabbage, cucumbers, radishes, pickled jalapeños, cheese, and mesquite-smoked green onions.I stuck with the staple and ordered a Sonoran Hot Dog (only $2.29), an unsplit soft baguette-like bun stuffed with a bacon-wrapped frank, pinto beans, tomatoes, jalapeños, shredded cheese, salsa, ketchup, mustard and a staggering amount of mayonnaise. I sliced up a grilled jalapeño to add on top and bit into the drippy goodness. By bite three I was full, but still enjoyed every last bit.Compared to an LA street dog, Guero Canelo's franks are smaller and less succulent, but the giant stuffed bun, pinto beans, and topping options weigh heavily in its favor. Next time I would opt for the Sammy Dog (2 franks), but then my friend's giant carne asada burrito on fresh tortilla looked incredible, and by his satisfied grunts and thumbs up, I sense he thoroughly enjoyed it.Guero Canelo also has a hefty array of Mexican beverages including all your favorite aguas frescas and Mexican glass-bottled sodas.2480 N Oracle Rd Tucson, AZ 85705-4322; 520.882.8977
5201 S 12th Ave Tucson, AZ 85706-2339; 520.295.9005
elguerocanelo.com

Super Bon!: Flathead Cherries

Sure, I love me some sweet blushed-yellow Rainier cherries as much as the next guy, but my heart belongs to Montana's Flathead Lake summer cherries. Now a family tradition, nothing can top a freshly picked sun-warmed sweet dark ruby Flathead cherry. My mother brought back a case from Campbell Orchards in Finley Point, Montana last week, and I've been in full-blown cherry-mode every day since. This quintessential summer cocktail is one of my favorite applications thus far...

Flathead Cherry Key Limeade
2 oz. 42 Below Vodka
3 Flathead cherries, pitted
2 key limes, halved
2 fresh basil leaves
Odwalla Limeade
club soda
Lightly muddle cherries, key limes and basil leaves in a highball glass. Add ice and pour vodka over. Add a splash of limeade and stir. Top with soda.

Friday, August 14, 2009

En Vitesse: Books + Tacos = Heaven

Why spend your money on books when Kogi's in the house? Come to Book Soup this Saturday August 15th between 1 and 4pm and bring your well thumbed paperbacks or hardcovers + your appetite and participate in a GoodReads sponsored "Book Swap".
Um, free books!
Kogi tacos!
Win/win!

Thursday, August 13, 2009

R.I.P. SGT Recruiter

You WILL be missed...

The bittersweet bright side to this loss (and that of adjoining Cobras and Matadors on Hollywood in Los Feliz) is that come September the second outpost of infamous La Brea rookie Umami Burger will fill the large Cobras space, with an expanded bistro menu to fit including oysters, steak, and "green" fried-chicken. The SGT Recruiter space will house a 20-person bar serving Japanese beer cutely named Salaryman (the Japanese term for a corporate drone). A third Umami will fill a dining space at Fred Segal in Santa Monica hopefully opening in November. This location will also serve the expanded menu, with the addition of patio seating and breakfast offerings.

via Eater LA

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Croquer: Culver's

I had never heard of Culver's until last week when I was in Phoenix with my sister and their frozen custard came up.
"Frozen woohoo??" I asked, the very combination of the words "frozen" and "custard" making my taste buds wave like a field of wheat. Within minutes we were en route, and Megan gave me the back story.
In 1984, a Wisconsin family - the Culvers - re-opened a former A&W root beer stand and christened it “Culver’s Frozen Custard and ButterBurgers.” They selected only the freshest ingredients, prepared each meal exactly to a guest’s order and delivered it to their table with a great big smile. The concept quickly caught on and they’ve been "Culverizing" people with their midwest charm ever since. Today, the family own six Culver’s and oversee more than 370 franchised restaurants in 17 states - Arizona happens to be one of them (in fact, Phoenix is the only city west of middle America that has Culver's).
Their unique twists on the conventional ice cream/burger stand business are what impress me. Who hungry for greasy sandwich could resist something called a ButterBurger? Who has ever heard of frozen custard? More importantly, what does it taste like??The frozen custard comes traditionally in vanilla or chocolate, with a rotating flavor of the day (and yes, it's different every single day of the month - from Butter Brickle to Double Marshmallow Oreo to Bananas Foster to Georgia Peach). Our flavor of the day - Butter Pecan (yum). I opted for a double scoop of the Butter Pecan and Chocolate. My niece Maddie got a Concrete Mixer (their Blizzard) of vanilla custard and mini m&ms.
The first thing I noticed upon first bite was the incredible texture. This is easily the smoothest frozen treat you'll ever taste. Not as heavy as the name implies, both flavor and body are incredibly light and silky. The chocolate isn't overly sweet, like a creamier Wendy's Frosty. The Butter Pecan had great full flavor with large chunks of fresh sweet pecans.
Ah yes, this is indulgent Americana fast food I can enjoy.
Check out the locator to see if there's a Culver's near you. But I'm afraid for guilty-pleasure frosty treats us west-coasters are going to have to stick with ye ol' Foster's Freeze or Yogurtland..
waiting for ice cream is such a drag...

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Carnish Culture: No Reservations


Scoma's Lazy Man's Cioppino
(Serves 4 - 6 people)

1⁄4 cup olive oil
1 tablespoon garlic
1 large white or yellow onion, chopped
1/2 cup dry white wine
1 teaspoon fresh oregano, chopped
1 tablespoon fresh basil, chopped
2 cups fish stock or clam juice
6 cups of your favorite tomato sauce
1 lb rock cod cut into 1" cubes
1.5 lbs Manila clams
12oz prawns (deveined and peeled)
1 lb cooked crab meat
8oz bay shrimp
12oz scallops
Salt and pepper

1. Heat olive oil over medium heat and cook garlic for one minute.
2. Add the onions and let them sweat for two or three minutes.
3. Turn heat to high and add the wine to deglaze. Cook for 2-3 minutes (or until reduced in half) then reduce heat to medium.
4. Add fresh oregano and basil.
5. Add the tomato sauce and bring to a boil.
6. Slowly add fish, shellfish, and shrimp meat.
7. Bring the cioppino back to a boil and simmer for 5-7 minutes or until all the seafood is cooked.
8. Add cooked crab meat.
9. Thin the cioppino to your liking with fish stock or clam juice.
10. Adjust the seasoning with salt & pepper.
11. Serve in a large bowl with fresh sourdough bread and enjoy!

SERVING SUGGESTIONS
This dish is a natural with most kinds of pasta such as linguine, angel hair, fettuccini or penne.