Thursday, July 30, 2009

En Vitesse: Public Fruit Jam

My friends at Fallen Fruit are at it again - This Sunday from 10am - 1pm is their fourth annual Public Fruit Jam at Machine Project. Bring home-grown or publicly-foraged fruit and though there will be some supplies on hand, bring as many clean, empty jars as you have. At the end everyone will leave with a jar of communal jam.
The kinds of jam we make will improvise on the fruit that people provide. The fruit can be fresh or frozen. Fallen Fruit will bring public fruit. We are looking for radical and experimental jams as well, like basil guava or lemon pepper jelly. We’ll discuss the basics of jam and jelly making, pectin and bindings, as well as the communal power of shared fruit and the liberation of public fruit.
Sunday August 2nd from 10am - 1pm
Machine Project
1200 N. Alvarado Blvd, Echo Park;
Photo via Machine Project/Fallen Fruit

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Recettes Secrètes: A Perfect Burger

Big Beefy BBQ™ Burger
We grilled these up at our Big Beefy BBQ last weekend and were very pleased with our big, juicy, flavorful burgers!

2 pounds ground beef chuck
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
2 to 3 tablespoons coarse ground Dijon mustard
1 small onion, minced
Vegetable oil, for grates
Coarse salt and ground pepper

Combine meat, Worcestershire, mustard and onion in a medium bowl, mix gently. Evenly divide meat into 4 portions. Lightly form each one into a ball, then shape into a 3/4-inch-thick patty. Press thumb in the center of each patty to make an indentation approximately 1/2-inch deep (this helps keep burgers flat during grilling). Transfer to a plate, cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate until ready to cook, up to 1 day.
Heat grill to medium-high. Moisten a folded paper towel with oil; grasp with tongs and rub over grates. Generously season patties on both sides with salt and pepper. Grill 4 to 7 minutes per side for medium-rare, placing cheese (if desired) on second side for last 3 to 4 minutes of cooking.Build burger on a King's Hawaiian Sweet roll with grilled jalapeños, Jufran banana sauce, Heirloom tomatoes, and lettuce. ENJOY!

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Buvare: LA Beer Float Showdown!

Beer floats rule, that is a given.
The first time I tried one was an experiment at home in college, with my favorite beer Black Butte Porter and I think Tofutti vanilla almond bark soy ice cream. It was.. interesting.. making clear that the right ingredients and balance were key. Years later, Portland's beloved Pix Patisserie set that suspicion straight with their ultra-rich Rogue Chocolate Stout float with homemade mocha ice cream (they also make one with Lindeman’s Framboise and homemade vanilla)!
More recently, I was excited to see that local favorite the Golden State put a beer float on their menu with Old Rasputin Imperial Stout and Scoops' famous brown bread ice cream. When downtown's BottleRock beer and wine bar added Belgian-style beer floats featuring sweet-spot MILK's ice creams, an innate if not good-natured beef was born.
This past Sunday, Food GPS teamed up with Blue Palms Brewhouse in Hollywood (to host as a neutral meeting grounds) for the first ever LA Beer Float Showdown! All proceeds benefited 826LA, the non-profit writing and tutoring program for kids under 18, founded by Dave Eggers and Nínive Calegari.My cohort Cara and I arrived on the scene Sunday, thirsty for the good stuff, snagging the last two stools at the bar just before the competition began. We happened to be seated right in front of the BottleRock/MILK dispatch station, BottleRock's beer director Alex Macy grinning despite a late keg delivery for their second float. "So.. do you guys want a float, or what?" he asked as the starting shots were fired. We got their first two floats, pairing Allagash Curieux (Tripel aged in bourbon barrels) with MILK's vanilla bean ice cream (pictured at top). Cara's first words were "I don't like that" noting the bitterness of the beer, but the curious combo was intriguing to me. The creamy vanilla did bring out the bourbon notes in the Allagash, which is a lovely Tripel, but the balance did seem slightly off, the two flavors mingling side by side on the palate but never melding.MILK's Jesse Furman & BottleShock's Alex Macy hustlin'.The Golden State's Jason Bernstein & Scoops' Tai Kim's calm powerhouse.Next we tried Team Golden State/Scoops' first offering - and the most inventive of the day - a pairing of the Bruery's tart German-style Hottenroth Berliner Weisse with raspberry-yuzu sorbet. This had a silken creamy head and looked like a more substantial "float" than the previous. The flavors were tart and light, best suited for the hot summer day outside. The sorbet teetered on on the verge of too sweet for the weisse however - I found myself fishing for the melty islands which was the only point against it. Unity is key!The next round kicked things up a heavy notch. Macy came back with one of my current favorite beers - St. Bernardus ABT 12 - paired with coffee toffee ice cream. Since he was concerned about not getting the St. Bernardus in time, Blue Palms proprietor Brian Lenzo pitched in a keg of Samichlaus (a 14% ABV Austrian doppelbock- the Guinness Book of Records' strongest lager beer in the world) which Macy offered us to try as a bonus. He seemed very excited about the option, but advised that the St. Bernardus and coffee toffee were the superior, intended match. We had to agree. The Samichlaus was indeed delicious; huge, fruity, bright and strong! The delightfully crunchy and creamy coffee toffee (my favorite ice cream of the day) preferred the dark and robust St. Bernardus though - the first successful fusion of layered flavors thus far.The Golden State finished with their signature float off the restaurant menu (initially slightly disappointing), but amped it up a bit. Sticking by their Old Rasputin and brown bread ice cream combo, Sunday's guests got an additional scoop of a specially made ice cream for the event - a "reduced" Old Rasputin caramel cinnamon ice cream(!). This float won me over by a landslide. Back with another moussey cream-thick head, this time around melding notes of cocoa, coffee, malt, bread yeast, and spice... A cherry on top whilst proving "if it ain't broke, don't fix it."
In the end, the Golden State & Scoops defeated BottleRock & MILK by a count of 930.5 to 781. After expenses, the event raised $1350 for 826LA. It was a day of winners, if you ask me.
So who's up for a backyard beer float competition, um, like ASAP?

Monday, July 27, 2009

Recettes Secrètes: Thai Coconut Lime Pops

Here's a goodie from my sister Megan. Her popsicle molds were from Bed Bath and Beyond and have cool little spouts for sipping the melted bits at the bottom. If you don't have molds, just use little cups with wood sticks or simply ice cube trays with plastic wrap and tooth picks or cut-down wood skewers.

14-ounce can of coconut milk
zest of 1 lime
juice of 2 limes
1/4-1/2 cups confectioner's sugar (to taste)
1/4 cup shredded coconut
1/3 cup diced pineapple

Puree coconut milk, lime zest, lime juice and sugar in blender. Then stir in 1/4 cup shredded coconut. Pour into molds. Finely dice canned pineapple to equal approx 1/3 cup. Sprinkle the pineapple into the popsicle mixture (in molds) will slowly sink to even distribute itself within the mixture. Insert sticks. Freeze for several hours until firm.

Enjoy on a hot summer's day!

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Buvare: A Midsummer Night's Drink

I present my summer absinthe cocktail.
Crisp and refreshing. Pleasantly herbal.

la Rosée de Fée
1 ounce Le Tourment Vert absinthe*
3/4 ounce Hendricks gin
2 ounces tarragon soda**

Combine all ingredients in a mixing glass with ice. Stir. Strain into a highball glass over ice.

*Note that Le Tourment has been softened through dilution and sweetening. It does not have the same high alcohol content as most traditional absinthes. Recipe may need tweaking for stronger absinthes.
**This popular Armenian/Georgian soda is carried by most Russian grocers.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Super Bon!: Theo Chocolate

When Nicole came to visit, she brought a couple of treats for me from Seattle. I couldn't have been more excited - it was a stack of Theo Chocolate bars... the first American producers of premium organic and Fair Trade specialty chocolate.
I had to try to Coconut Curry milk chocolate first (of the 3400 Phinney 2 oz. series) because, well, I mean what the heck does THAT taste like? (Kinda crazy). The creamy milk chocolate loaded with toasted coconut and savory curry spices has an odd flavor/texture upon first bite, but is quickly curiously addictive. The next I tried was the Dark Chocolate with Cherries and Almonds (of the 3 oz. Theo Classic Flavor Combination series) featuring 70% dark chocolate combined with tart dried organic cherries and crunchy roasted almonds; Smokey and rich. The Dark Chocolate with Mint also features 70% dark chocolate with a blend of spearmint and peppermint oils which create a surprisingly vibrant/fresh and smooth version of your typical 'mint chocolate'. Very delicious! My favorite though is the Hazelnut Crunch bar - A satisfying crunchy combination of hazelnut brittle and milk chocolate with a pleasing pinch of salt.. No contest!
Go here for a list of stores (includes Whole Foods and Pier 1), order online, or if you're in Seattle, swing by the factory for a tour and exclusive tastings!

3400 Phinney Ave. N. Seattle, WA 98103; 206.632.5100

Thursday, July 16, 2009

En Vitesse: National Ice Cream Day!

This Sunday stay cool with free scoops from Milk for National Ice Cream Day. Just say the secret code phrase "I scream, you scream, we all scream for ice cream" (embarrassing, I know) for one scoop of their delicious banana dulce de leche or other homemade ice creams. Sweet deal!

7290 Beverly Blvd, Mid-City; 323.939.6455

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Recettes Secrètes: Lemon Caper Chicken Salad

My friend David made this last weekend and it blew my mind. Tangy, fresh, tender and incredibly flavorful! My mouth waters every time I think about it!

David's Lemon Caper Chicken Salad
makes 3-4 servings

2 chicken breasts
1 small jar capers (3.5 oz)
1/2 cup crushed almonds
1/2 cup fresh dill, chopped
1 cup mayonnaise
1 1/2 lemons
1 clove garlic
2 bay leaves
salt & pepper

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
Trim chicken breast and season with salt & pepper. Lay in a baking dish and squeeze the juice of a whole lemon over both breasts. Set a bay leaf on each, then a pat of butter over the bay leaves. Bake for 35-40 minutes.
Cool cooked chicken breasts. Chop coarsely and mix with capers, dill, almonds, garlic, mayonnaise and juice of 1/2 lemon. Combine thoroughly. Season to taste with salt & pepper.

Serve with crackers, toasts, or croissants. Also delicious in a halved apricot.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Voyager Bien: The Tonga Room

Hidden in the depths below Nob Hill's palace hotel the Fairmont, a relic housed comfortably for decades may just be heading off to the pawn shop. Behold the endangered Tonga Room, San Francisco's prized jewel of the Tiki underground.
Let me take a few steps back and start off by saying that I have a mega soft spot for all things Tiki. Classic grog recipes in the Beachcomber and Vic styles, kitschy Polynesian dens that skate the line between novelty and dive, Easter Island aesthetic, pu-pu platters and a year-round celebration of Summer love... Spawning among many things a contemporary cult California art movement, Tiki is for many a lifestyle, and practically a state of mind. I enjoy my nights at Los Feliz's Tiki Ti, Tucson's Kon Tiki, and Portland's Alibi, have a renewed appreciation for fruity cocktails and bartend my parent's annual summer Tiki parties, but stop just short of the Hawaiin shirt.
Despite its popular resurgence in recent years however, Tiki has suffered significant decline, especially in the closing of many Tiki [bar] institutions, such as the close of the original Trader Vic's in the Beverly Hills Hilton. Most of those kooky old Tiki themed bars and hotels in the coffee table books you see are now generic motor hotels and Chinese restaurants - or flat out gone, bulldozed for a contemporary neighborhood makeover. Just now when it seems popularity could save this species, reality proves it may in fact be time for a Tiki historical society.
OK, so back to San Francisco. Sitting in Dolores Park on a sunny Sunday, I hear some of the folks I'm hanging with are going to the Tonga Room that evening. Sounds Tiki, so I inquire further. They explain that the Tonga Room is a must (especially since it is going to be closing soon) and is the Granddaddy of the bay's Tiki set, situated in the basement of the historic Fairmont Hotel where it's existed since the late 1940s (the hotel's history overall really is quite interesting). The large room which once housed the 'Fairmont Plunge' pool debuted in 1945 as the S.S. Tonga, featuring a live band-carrying boat in the middle of a pool and a dance floor made from the actual deck of the S.S. Forrester ("one of the last of the tall ships that plied the route between San Francisco and the South Sea Islands").
The Tonga's swinging early days post WWII.
Mid-century Tonga!
The Tonga today.
Naturally I was game, and excited to expand my Tiki repertoire. I have to admit though that following my deck sunning and champagne drinking at Medjool earlier in the day and a quick stop to slug a gimlet and see a friend sing at Martuni's, I was not altogether sober arriving to the Tonga Room (hmm, blurry photos). But boy did I gasp walking from the elevator and the sterile hotel hallway into this dark and lush Tiki behemoth. As I ordered a Scorpion (to share? I may have had this on my own...), the live band's boat floated toward the back wall and the lights dimmed. Thunder boomed from invisible speakers and Disneyland lightning cracked through the dark. Holy crap, a storm was hitting - And it was suddenly downpouring inside the freakin' bar! Before I knew it, the boat and band were back in the water, a friend and I were ballroom dancing on the deck of the S.S. Forrester, and either I misplaced my Scorpion, or I drank two... But it really was the most amazing time!Back in LA, I did a little research on the rumors about the Tonga Room closing soon. Laughing Squid and Tiki Central Forums confirmed the rumor, citing that a new hotel construction plan would replace the existing Fairmont Hotel Tower with a new residential condo tower. The Tonga Room, at the base of the existing tower is missing in the envisioned building plan... replaced by a new grand ballroom. Hotel officials have claimed that no construction will commence until 2012, but the Tonga's devout followers have already started to rally to save it. A New York Times article brought the issue national, with pages like Save the Tonga Room popping up online garnering surprising support. The city has yet to get involved, and for now it looks like the Tonga's days may be numbered.
As I sat that night and took in the grandeur of the room, my sentimentality kicked. This was one of the most impressive bars PERIOD. While the idea of this piece of cultural history disappearing is distressing, I felt very grateful to be experiencing it, and as the cap to a really perfect San Francisco weekend.
Fitting it is, I thought, that Aloha means both hello and goodbye..

Tonga Room at the Fairmont Hotel
950 Mason St. San Francisco, CA 94108; 415.772.5000

vintage photos via Alamagordo, Mr. Bali Hai, & Tiki Central
video via Frank Synopsis

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Voyager Bien: Medjool Sky Terrace

It was my last day in San Francisco and after a intriguing "fusion" breakfast of a macaroni-corn pancake with fried egg then a leisurely afternoon sunning in Dolores Park, I was off on foot to meet some friends at Medjool's Sky Terrace on Mission. Hardly the hood for a rooftop bar, I wandered past congested storefronts and closed-down theatres looking for a clue proving I wasn't totally lost. Sure enough, among the run-down shops appeared a glossy restaurant entrance, with a side hallway leading to an elevator.
"Penthouse is my guess," I said to the woman looking at the pad of numbered buttons with apprehension. At the top, the elevator opened to sunlight, a crisp breeze and a stunning view of downtown San Francisco beyond a deck full of white-clothed tables. A gorgeous sight.
I spotted my friends, a bottle of sparkling wine being opened as I approached. Perfect timing! We toasted with our glasses of Bortolomiol Prosecco and breathed in the fresh bay air. The table let me know that some noshes were on the way and hoped I didn't mind they went ahead. Seeing the plates the servers brought, I absolutely did not!In front of me was a delightful Spanish cheese plate (with Garrotxa, La Leyenda, Manchego, Pata Cabra, & Idialzabal) with marcona almonds, quince paste and olives. Like colors of the rainbow, there was something for everyone here, and all were delicious.The charcuterie plate was also lovely, with a divine prosciutto and sopressata, salami, a shaved hard Italian cheese (a Piave or Parmigiano Reggiano), olives and toasted baguette.A little later we shared a flight of house made hamburger sliders with caramelized onions and cheddar, which helped mellow the buzz from the second bottle of bubbly.As the sun began to set and the breeze turned chilly, we headed downstairs to Medjool's main bar and had one last drink before departing. Segueing from our current conversation about espresso cocktails, the charming bartender introduced us to Patron XO Café coffee-infused tequila -and Patron Citronge Liqueur- whilst whipping us up a round of flawless espresso cocktails. A perfect cap on an evening... that was not quite over!
But we did bid adieu to Medjool, and the best view in town.

2522 Mission St @ 21st St. San Francisco, CA 94110; 415.550.9055

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Voyager Bien: Slow Club

Following a very late night, my first morning in San Francisco was greeted by a hankering for a BIG bay-style brunch. The sun was shining, the birds were singing, and my host knew exactly where we should go.
Just off Potrero in the Central East neighborhood, Slow Club appeared among loft and warehouse buildings like a glittering star, a bustling sidewalk scene and inviting interior.Our waitress was an adorable spunky thing, immediately winning me over with a wink and a glowing smile. She brought us biscuits and jam right away, a lovely brunch detail. I heard amazing things about their Sweet Risotto (raisins, toasted walnuts & maple syrup), but it was a burger and bloody kind of morning for me.Our bloody marys were thick with horseradish and hit the spot. The burger, made with quality Prather Ranch dry aged ground beef was piled with cheddar, greens, a jewel of a tomato, balsamic onions, dijon mustard & aioli on a toasted brioche-like bun, with light and crispy french fries. The presentation may have been standard, but the ingredients made themselves known upon first bite. A tasty, juicy, quality burger!
Slow Club is the kind of relaxed haunt you wish you could take home and keep on your own corner.

2501 Mariposa St. San Francisco, CA 94110; 415.241.9390

Friday, July 3, 2009

Buvare: My 5 Summer Cocktails

Summer weather may have just hit LA, but in the past several weeks I've already begun concocting a handful of cocktails that sure do quench a hot afternoon thirst. Here are my current favorites:

Kumquat Drop (or, Fallen Fruit Cocktail)
1 1/2 ounces Crater Lake Vodka
1 ounce fresh-picked-lemon juice
3/4 ounce Tuaca
1/2 ounce agave nectar
dash blood orange bitters
1 fresh-picked kumquat, halved
Combine all ingredients in a cocktail shaker.
Shake. Strain into a martini glass.

1 ounce Campari
1 ounce Hendricks Gin
1 ounce Lemon Grove Limoncello
splash of sparkling mineral water
orange slice
Combine all ingredients except mineral water in a mixing glass with ice. Stir. Strain into a double old-fashioned over cracked ice. Top with mineral water. Garnish with orange slice.Coconut Lime Rickey
1 1/2 ounces Mount Gay white rum
1 ounce fresh coconut juice
3/4 ounce Velvet Falernum
1/2 ounce fresh lime juice
1/2 ounce agave nectar
1 lime wedge
Using a large drill bit, twist holes into 2 of the coconut's "eyes." Drain liquid through a fine sieve. In a cocktail shaker, combine coconut juice, lime juice, Velvet Falernum, agave and rum. Shake. Strain into a tumbler over ice. Garnish with lime wedge.

1 ounce rye
1 ounce Laird's Applejack
3/4 ounce fresh meyer lemon juice
1/2 ounce pure maple syrup
1/4 ounce sweet vermouth
dash Fee Brothers Whiskey Barrel-Aged bitters
orange peel
Combine all ingredients in a mixing glass with ice. Stir. Strain into a coupe. Garnish with flamed orange peel (learn how here).

Strega Margarita
1 ounce tequila
1 ounce Strega
1 ounce fresh lemon juice
pinch of salt
splash of Tuaca
Combine all ingredients except Tuaca in a cocktail shaker.
Shake, and strain into a high ball over ice. Float with the Tuaca.