Showing posts with label Burger. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Burger. Show all posts

Friday, September 24, 2010

IFBC 2010: Day 2

Day two of the International Food Blogger Conference started the way more mornings should. Doughnuts! But no dunkin' around here, these were Seattle's best, yummy Top Pot Doughnuts. Combined with a cup of Caffé Vita coffee I was ready to dive into another day of culinary radness. The delicious irony was that the first session of the day was on the topic of "specialized diets" focusing on gluten-free and vegan... There was more than an audible rumble among some specialized bloggers about the choice of doughnuts (though frankly I found it a little obnoxious, as there was an entire table of wheat-free, vegan muffins from PCC Natural Markets and gluten-free muffins from Udi’s Gluten-Free...). I kept quiet and enjoyed my French cruller.
The Food Blogging For Specialized Diets panel starred Shauna James Ahern, author of the blog Gluten-Free Girl and the book Gluten-Free Girl: How I Found the Food That Loves Me Back…And How You Can Too (and I say star because this woman is loved by her disciples) and the quietly winning Alex Jamieson, author of Living Vegan for Dummies and The Great American Detox Diet. One of the most impactful moments of the weekend came at the beginning of this session when the panelists asked all of the vegans in the room to stand up, followed by vegetarians, then gluten-free, those with a wheat allergy, lactose intolerance, etc. all the way down to issues with spicy foods. By the end, basically everybody was standing, point being: everyone has a specialized diet. A laugh erupted when Jamieson was asked about her militant vegan critics and she responded "oh, don't get me wrong vegans drive me nuts!"
Next up was Modernist Cuisine: The Art and Science of Cooking, a titillating session led by Dr. Nathan Myhrvold, CEO and found of Intellectual Ventures, a firm dedicated to creating and investing in inventions. Myhrvold gave an exciting visual preview of his soon-to-be-published multi-volume food and cooking book Modernist Cuisine: The Art and Science of Cooking. Meticulous cross section digital photographs and slow motion high-def video of spilling wine and gun-shot eggs had the room in enraptured silence. Myhrvold's books cover the science of cooking ("bread is actually a gel") but also include parametric recipes that make contemporary molecular gastronomy seem like child's play. A full live taping of the presentation can be viewed here.
The next session was far and away many bloggers' favorite, Digital Food Photography presented by Penny De Los Santos, award-winning documentary photographer (contributing photographer for Saveur Magazine, National Geographic and Martha Stewart Living, and cookbooks including the nationally acclaimed book “Asian Dumplings” by Andrea Nguyen). De Los Santos' slide show and stories were awe-inspiring, my only disappointment was that it was not a hands-on photography workshop as I somehow misunderstood, rather a conceptual overview and inspirational talk. What I took away and appreciated most though was De Los Santos' use of the term "making pictures", for we are not taking anything away, we are creating beautiful imagery.
Our lunch break on Sunday was an exciting one, featuring Gourmet Food Trucks of the Pacific Northwest. Familiar with the droves in LA I was intrigued what the Northwest had to offer. I couldn't get to all of them (regretfully missing El Camion and Dante’s Inferno Dogs) as I also had to fit in a Theo chocolate factory tour and time for enjoying some local beer selections from Pike Brewing Co.
Charles and Rose Ann Finkel might be THE most charming business owners I've ever met, and reading their adorable history on the Pike Brewing Co. site, I have an even more enormous amount of respect for the way they've built their empire. Rose Ann laughed while pouring us Kilt Lifter and Naughty Nellies, two of Pike's cheekily named brews.
My lunchtime partner-in-crime Sharon (of Delicious Musings) snuck us beers to make the truck queue more bearable.
My favorite bite was from Skillet, a grass fed beef burger slider with arugula, bacon jam and cambozola on a soft roll. So good! I want to buy this bacon jam (and apparently for a pretty penny I can).
Next we got in line at Kaosamai Thai. Their Pla Sam Rose was the most gorgeous street food I've ever seen, an elegant deep-fried trout topped with fresh sliced mango, red onion, carrot, cashew nuts and a sweet & sour dressing. Their pineapple curry with salmon was also top notch.
The Georgetown neighborhood's Hallava Falafel truck represented, serving a tasty slow roasted lamb shawarma served with Russian red relish, spinach and cabbage mix, tzatziki, wild Armenian pickle, and a "super secret" spice mix on a warm pita.
Sharon enjoyed the wild Armenian pickle with her crispy falafel.
I was impressed with the portable wood-fired oven Rolling Fire employed, the closest thing to a truly portable restaurant yet. The crust of the white pies was bubbly, crisp and light. Ingredients were clearly farm-fresh, a refreshingly clean pizza!
I didn't indulge in one of Anita’s Crepes, but always enjoy watching the process...
Olive Oil ice cream sounded soo good, I was very excited to try a taste. Unfortunately the pointed Molly Moon’s Ice Cream vendor declared that he was closed and told the woman in front of me that she was the last customer. I looked behind me and there was no one. I waved and asked if he could make an exception given it's only one more... and he shook his head. The blogger in front of me loudly exclaimed "Sorry!" over her shoulder. Dumbstruck I left the line, not terribly stoked for ice cream anymore. More beer!
Though not part of the corral of IFBC-sponsoring trucks, the Maximus Minimus truck had an undeniable presence, serving porcine dishes to the neighboring farmer's market crowd.
Sharon and I finished our beers and headed to the main Theo building for our guided factory tour. Our docent Kathleen was totally awesome. After a run-down of exactly where the cocoa beans come from and how Theo stands apart from other chocolate companies, she walked us through the color-coded process under the roof that produces all chocolate bearing the Theo logo. Their small batch chocolate production is truly an art form!
Goodies from the Theo chocolate shop...(You can taste everything!)
Capturing the magic that is Theo's PB&J chocolate truffle... Meanwhile, back at the ranch lunch was definitely over.
Photo contest winners were picked for capturing and posting the best food truck images, judged by IFBC presenters.
And then the final, highly-anticipated panel: Pitch to Publish, lead by Victoria von Biel, Executive Editor of Bon Appétit, Kirsty Melville, President, Book Division at Andrews-McMeel, and food blogger It girl Molly Wizenberg, Bon Appétit columnist, author of the blog, Orangette, and A Homemade Life: Stories and Recipes from My Kitchen Table. Here is where the bloggers' burning questions finally came out, receiving both helpful advice and also some discouraging realities in return. Presenter Dianne Jacob from the first panel of the weekend won me over yet again with a devil's advocate rebuttal to the panel's [sometimes vacantly] encouraging advice: How many cold submissions are ever actually published at Bon Appétit or by Andrews-McMeel? The answer was obviously none, and the panel smiled knowingly, as did Dianne and half of the room. Naturally, following the presentation the line to meet these women was a long one.
I think with everything I learned throughout the weekend, a certain clarity and pride about what I already do was the most beneficial take-away. Every panel dropped the line at least once "you're here because you love it, it's not supporting you, it's your passion." Nor is it a popularity contest, as James Oseland stated. Wizenberg's cornerstone advice was to have a story to tell. And the burrito baby of all of it is to keep on truckin'. So I am.
This is my story, World. Eat it up.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Croquer: Jitlada

I wasn't going to take any chances. The voice on the other end of the line asked the name attached to the special request for Jazz's special Thai burger. "Lisa," I lied (clearly). We had dinner plans at Jitlada for the following Wednesday, but I had been warned to call several days in advance as a courtesy. You see, Jazz's cult-like "secret" off-menu burger is made from scratch, with only from the freshest meat she has to go out and pick up special. And rumored only for her favorite customers. I've been to Jitlada, but Lisa was a bona fide regular. "I can't guarantee she will make it," the voice warned me. "Only if she feels like it that day." I nodded, as if he could see me, and thanked him for his help in this matter.
We showed up to Jitlada that following Wednesday early, to beat the dinner rush, finger's crossed. Once seated, we ordered Singhas and the infamous Steamed Mussels to start... The fresh New Zealand mussels are served simmering in a pot of aromatic lemon grass, chili, garlic and basil broth, an incredibly addictive soup once the mussels are all gone...
We sheepishly asked if the special burgers were in our stars, and all jumped in our chairs when our server said Jazz agreed to make them for us. The thick burger patties arrived embraced in lettuce leaves, topped with a slice of tomato, onions, sliced green chilies, Thai basil, and a sweet tangy sauce. The burger was juicy, spicy and happily at home with the Thai take on American "special sauce". I didn't want it to end...
Realizing it was about to however, we flipped to the BACK page of the menu - where the Southern Thai specialties live. No glossy color images there, just dense typed text tightly filling two pages. Pad Thai? Try Spicy Frog Legs or Phuket Lobster Tails. Oh, where to start?
The Morning Glory salad, of course. Crispy deep-fried Chinese watercress and shrimp make up this salad, with a house dressing and heavy hand of crispy onions. Texture heaven! This is a new favorite.
The Pumpkin Lamb Curry was the first item to make me cry (those familiar know that Jitlada is notorious for being one of the spiciest Thai restaurants.. ever. And proudly so). The lamb was flavorful even against the spice of the dry curry, cooled with sweet pumpkin.
The tastiest bite though would have to be the Crying Tiger Pork, another famous Jitlada dish. The meat is seasoned and cooked to toothsome perfection, spiced up by the accompanying chili lime dipping sauce. I debated ordering a another plate of it, but was reminded how full not only the table was, but my belly.
Jazz came by to say hello and see what we thought of the burger, sincerely concerned with our feedback. "My brother tells me to open a burger stand," she says of its popularity, "but it's too much work! I only use the freshest meat. I just went out and got that you know!" Yet all I could think was how soon can I come back? And how can I convince her to make me one again then?
5233 W Sunset Blvd. 323.663.3104
Jitlada in Los Angeles on Fooddigger
Jitlada Thai on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Croquer: Cup Cafe at the Hotel Congress

I grew up fielding some pretty ludicrous inquiries about what desert living is like. Before moving to Oregon for college, Tucson life is what I knew, and the dry rivers, cacti, rattle snakes and other natural dangers never really bothered me because it was.. normal. But did we ride horses to school? No. Tucson is a pretty misunderstood town I would say. For anyone who hasn't been there, a Phoenix comparison is generally pitched first (they are nothing alike). And for those who haven't been to Arizona, a dry expansive wasteland apparently comes to mind. So when pictures of the lush Sonoran foliage or monumental Catalina Mountain range are added to the mix, things start to come into place. Sure Tucson is a flat, expansive sprawl with strip malls and home developments galore, but its historic core in downtown with bona fide gangster stories and vintage flare is generally the most unexpected curveball for the uninitiated. At the crux of this, bordering the Armory Park neighborhood is the beacon of Tucson's racy heritage, the Hotel Congress (circa 1919).
A historic hot spot known for its concert venue/nightclub and ghostly visitors, Hotel Congress has recently been bringing more attention to its roaring heyday, climaxing with the fire of 1934 that resulted in the capture of John Dillinger and his gang who were "vacationing" on the hotel's third floor. The hotel has retained its original Southwest Art Deco ambiance and charm, with iron beds and vintage radios in each room (no TVs). The hotel also benefits from housing one of the most reputable cafes in town, the Cup Cafe.Harkening to said glory days, the cocktail menu at the Cup features specialty cocktails such as Dillinger Sidecar, and Public Enemy No. 1, but the El Camino is what called out to me. "A salute to the 'Tucson Pickup Truck'", it blends Corralejo Reposado, Gran Marnier, grapefruit & a hint of lavenar honey. Delightful! Nicole got the Lisbon Blonde, light and fresh with white port, Averna Amaro Italian Liqueur & tonic with a lemon twist.Nicole's sandwich was a glorious sight to behold (though I can't for the life of me recall what was in it)! Chilly and overcast outside, it was no-effing-around burger kind of day for me. I got the Locals Only - Angus beef topped with asadero cheese and roasted chiles, with a side of gooey delicious tortilla soup. Definitely not in LA, and loving every bite.Lunch at the Cup won't break your bank, just don't drop your change on the floor. You may not recover it...311 East Congress St. Tucson, AZ 85701; 800.722.8848
Cup Cafe (at Hotel Congress) on Urbanspoon