Showing posts with label bacon. Show all posts
Showing posts with label bacon. Show all posts

Friday, December 31, 2010

Croquer: Brenda's French Soul Food

The rain was relentless. Somewhere across the Tenderloin, a sponsored brunch was well underway for attendees of Foodbuzz Fest. But Catherine and I stood under an umbrella, Philz Coffees in hand, patiently waiting amongst several other umbrella'd folk for our name to be called from the warm and dry doorway of Brenda's French Soul Food. I wasn't shocked when Windattack texted me, finished with the sponsored brunch and ready for a more substantial meal. "We're standing here in the rain. At least a half hour to go.. Join us," I said. "I'm told it'll be worth it."
A solid hour after our arrival, Catherine's name was called and the three of us filed into the cramped single room to our counter seat facing a mirrored wall. It was loud, cozy, and perfect. The sugar cane syrup cans holding silverware, Crystal hot sauce bottles, and Community Coffee bags lining the shelves above the register took me instantly back to New Orleans. I was so ready for this.
With a piping chicory coffee in front of me the menu became more manageable. The three of us decided to start with the flight of beignets.
The flight came in four selections: Plain, filled with molten Ghirardelli chocolate, Granny Smith apple with cinnamon honey butter, and crawfish with cayenne, scallions and cheddar. The only problem was that they came out at the same time as the rest of our food so we had to hurry to enjoy them warm. The savory crawfish beignet powdered with cayenne was my favorite.. as sultry as the South itself.
Catherine and Andy both ordered the Creole Veggie Omelette - filled with corn maque choux, tomato, onion, peppers, spinach, and cheddar. The star may have been the huge homemade biscuit on the side. Fluffy golden deliciousness.
I ordered one of the specials scrawled on the mirror in front of us - Shrimp & Grits. Here the classic was dressed up with loads of cheddar cheese and smoky bacon jam. Words cannot describe the pleasure derived from savoring each bite! And after the hour out in the rain I took my time to do just that. Well, and dork out with my fellow bloggers.

652 Polk St. San Francisco, CA 94102; 415.345.8100
Brenda's French Soul Food on Urbanspoon

Monday, December 27, 2010

Croquer: Mission Chinese Food

San Francisco is a kick ass food town, this we know. So when in Rome, how does one pick a dinner destination when there is only one slot to fill? How can you ever decide? Well, apparently just ask Lessley Anderson. She seems to always be right, and suggested without hesitation Mission Chinese Food. Once the popular Mission Street Food, the owners took their popular dishes indoors. A funny "in-the-know" type of joint, Mission Chinese Food is a pop-up inside of another restaurant - the divey Lung Shan Chinese Restaurant. Both menus are served, but the waiters seem to know which menu to drop by the table.
Perhaps due to their name and surroundings, the Mission Chinese chefs are careful to disclaim their craft, plainly labeling their offerings "Americanized Oriental Food." They are quick to bolster the term, stating: "Though we'll focus on Chinese food, we're leaving ourselves the freedom to incorporate other Asian flavor profiles. Our use of the term "oriental" is not meant to be offensive. The word is derived from a root meaning "eastern," which represents a Eurocentric orientation to Asia, and it was most often used in a bygone era when Europeans viewed the regions east of the Mediterranean as exotic lands full of "romance and intrigue." For us, as Asian-American cooks, using this loaded term is an indictment of the Eurocentricity of fine dining, but it's also meant to desensitize the term in that transcending-racism-by-not-interpreting-every-single-thing-as-racist way. You know, like the "queers" did." (cite)
This open approach to the cooking has brought an intoxicating array of atypical dishes to the menu. Selecting was near impossible. We decided to start with the tart and spicy Szechuan Pickles - Salted pickled cabbage, cucumber, roasted peanut, fresh coriander, and chili oil.
The slow-cooked Char Siu Pork Belly with tea smoked egg, ginger scallion, rolled noodles, and cucumber was melt-in-your mouth rich. Indulgence that can't not bring a smile to your face.
The Thrice Cooked Bacon was smoky and spicy - Thick cuts of meaty bacon tossed with rice cakes, bitter melon, tofu skin, scallion, black bean, and chili oil. A contender for favorite, the texture was as interesting as the flavor profile. Where have stir fried rice cakes been all my life???
The Westlake Lamb Dumplings -my other favorite- were handmade several feet away from our table. The lamb was terrifically spiced, steamed in freshly made rice dough, served with braised peanut, coriander, dill, and brown rice vinegar. Shockingly toothsome.
Lastly we sampled Lung Shan's Vegan Delight with shitake and oyster mushroom dumplings in miso soup. The light dish worked well as a palate cleanser after such a rich and incredible meal.
We sat in blissful awe, finished our beers while laughing, the soft chopping and forming of dough on the wood counter behind us. The hushed sound of happiness being wrought into consumable form.
*Mission Chinese Food donates seventy-five cents from each menu item to the SF Food Bank.

2234 Mission St.(Lung Shan Restaurant) San Francisco, CA 94110; 415.863.2800
Mission Chinese Food on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Croquer: Lake Street Creamery

OK so this tiny kitten licking a tiny ice cream cone may have sold me, but the Lake Street Creamery truck has a mouthwatering menu worth checking out.
I'm ready for the Pancake Breakfast Ice Cream, with real maple syrup, bacon chunks and fresh ground peaberry coffee. There's also a cake donut flavored ice cream, licorice flavored Black Jack, and chili-spiked chocolate Aztec Sacrifice Ice Cream. All in an eco-friendly waffle bowl. Or if you prefer, floating in black cherry or cream soda.
Truck launches this Saturday, so grab your cat, tiny hat, and let's do this.

Follow them on Twitter

Monday, June 21, 2010

Croquer: Lasagna Lab at Cube

There's really no excuse for NOT eating out this Tuesday night. Finely curated marketplace and café Cube on La Brea is a couple of weeks deep into its summer-long Tuesday Night Lasagna Lab, where $20 buys you a farm-fresh meal of chef Erin Eastland's homemade pasta lasagna, imaginative side salad (no "mixed greens" here), and a glass of wine paired by Cube's wine director -and owner- Alex Palermo.
The other Tuesday, I nabbed a last minute reservation at the cheese bar to check it out. The small café and sidewalk patio were bustling but not overstuffed, the charming server still able to immediately present an amuse-bouche and dole out some charm. We ordered the lasagna prix fixe, and in addition a starter of the Hamachi crudo. This "Italian sashimi" is composed with house pickled kumquats and leek scapes, drizzled with fruity olive oil. The puckish kumquats add a satisfying zing to the sea spray fresh dish.
After the hamachi our server returned to regretfully inform us that (at 7:15pm) they were already out of the special lasagna prix fixe... In frank disbelief we asked if she was certain. Our orders had been in, and I knew the books were filled up all night for the special menu - seemed early in dinner service to have run out. She returned saying that they had one left, so we gratefully claimed it, and in place of the other ordered the sweet corn stuffed pasta with brown butter, bacon, red cow parmesan. 
The sweet corn pasta was delicate and fresh. Refreshingly, the bacon was not overpowering, rather the rich cheese dominated the flavor profile. A nice addition to the meal.
The special this week was a white lasagna with baby zucchini, squash blossoms, and also the delightfully pungent red cow parmesan. My disdain of 'fallback zucchini' diminished with the crisp paper-thin slices of farmer's market baby zucchini here, layered between delicate pasta sheets and bolstered with conservative amounts of cheese. The salad of spring baby greens, grilled peach, cipollini onions, thick cut bacon, and aged balsamic was fantastic, all rounded off nicely with the 2004 Ca'Rossa Roero Nebbiolo.
Definitely plan a Tuesday or two at Cube before September, but book a reservation for early in the night so you don't miss out! And if lasagna is not your steez, swing by for Dessert Bar Mondays featuring $5 sweetmeat small plates (like Tres Leches Cake with Vanilla Bean Parfait & Milk Meringue) from Executive Pastry Chef Jun Tan, mini cheese plates by Cube Gourmet Buyer Rachael Sheridan, and of course more paired wines by Palermo.

Cube Cafe & Marketplace
615 N La Brea Ave. LA; 323.939.1148
Cube at Divine Pasta Co in Los Angeles on Fooddigger

Cube Cafe on Urbanspoon

P.S. On the topic of awesome homemade lasagna... The recent lasagna special at my new favorite neighborhood haunt Osteria Mamma was also delicioso!

Osteria Mamma
5730 Melrose ave. LA; 323.284.7060

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Recettes Secrètes: Bacon Brittle and Pickled Okra

For the holidays this year I chained myself to the kitchen. I tried as much as possible to use homemade goods in place of store bought gifts. My main two projects were (of course inspired by the South) Pecan Bacon Brittle and Pickled Okra. Both went over quite well, so wanted to share the recipes, ma' dear readers.

Pecan Bacon Brittle
original recipe from Everything Tastes Better With Bacon
makes about 1 pound

1 cup sugar
1/2 cup light corn syrup
1/2 cup water
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 cup (about 2 ounces) chopped pecans
1/3 to 1/2 cup cooked bacon bits (6 to 8 ounces uncooked bacon)
Grease or butter
a large nonstick baking sheet

In a medium heavy saucepan, combine the sugar, corn syrup and water over medium heat. Stir until the sugar dissolves and the syrup comes to a boil. Attach a candy thermometer to the pan, increase the heat to high, and cook, without stirring, until the mixture reaches 290 degrees. Immediately remove from the heat.

Stir in the butter, vanilla, baking soda, pecans and bacon bits. The mixture will foam. When the foam subsides, quickly pour the hot mixture onto the prepared baking sheet as thinly as possible. Do not spread with a spatula.

Cool at least 10 minutes before breaking into pieces. Store in a covered container.

Pickled Okra
original recipe from Alton Brown

2 pounds young, small to medium okra pods
4 small dried chiles, split in 1/2
2 teaspoons mustard seeds
12 sprigs fresh dill
4 cloves garlic, whole
1 teaspoon whole peppercorns
1/4 cup kosher salt
2 cups rice wine vinegar
2 cups bottled water
Special Equipment: 4 pint-sized canning jars, sterilized*

Wash the okra and trim the stem to 1/2-inch. Place 1 chile, 1/2 teaspoon mustard seeds, 3 sprigs of dill, 1 clove of garlic and 1/4 teaspoon peppercorns in the bottom of each of 4 sterilized pint canning jars. Divide the okra evenly among the 4 jars, standing them up vertically, alternating stems up and down.

In a medium saucepan over medium heat, bring the salt, vinegar and water to a boil. Once boiling, pour this mixture over the okra in the jars, leaving space between the top of the liquid and the lid. Seal the lids. Set in a cool dry place for 2 weeks.*Tips on Sterilizing Jars
Properly-handled sterilized equipment will keep canned foods in good condition for years. Sterilizing jars is the first step of preserving foods.

Sterilizing Tips:

Jars should be made from glass and free of any chips or cracks. Preserving or canning jars are topped with a glass, plastic, or metal lid, which has a rubber seal. Two piece lids are best for canning, as they vacuum seal when processed.

To sterilize jars, before filling with jams, pickles, or preserves, wash jars and lids with hot, soapy water. Rinse well and arrange jars and lids open sides up, without touching, on a tray. Boil the jars and lids in a large saucepan, covered with water, for 15 minutes.

Use tongs when handling the hot sterilized jars, to move them from boiling water. Be sure the tongs are sterilized too, by dipping the ends in boiling water for a few minutes.

As a rule, hot preserves go into hot jars and cold preserves go into cold jars. All items used in the process of making jams, jellies, and preserves must be clean. This includes any towels used, and especially your hands.

After the jars are sterilized, you can preserve the food. It is important to follow any canning and processing instructions included in the recipe and refer to USDA guidelines about the sterilization of canned products.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Croquer: Cacao Mexicatessen

In a nearby mysterious land known as Eagle Rock, cool things can soar under the radar for ages, effortlessly being cool and raking in passing raves like underground legends. Take The Oinkster, Fatty's, Auntie Em's or Colorado Wine Co., all incredible, yet casually accessible whenever you make the trek out to meet them. Add a new neighborhood hero to the list, Cacao Mexicatessen.Part taco shop, part Mexican deli, part gourmet Latin food purveyor, Cacao modestly shares a Spanish duplex with a flower shop, and quietly serves the most incredibly inventive and authentic tacos this side of the border. They make and sell all their own salsas, hot sauces and moles. Their cooler case also features an interesting selection of Mexican cheeses, shelves adorned with imported candies, condiments, high-end Mexican cocoa tablets, piloncillo cones, and tamarind coated apples.After taking it all in, we ordered at the counter and sat outside on the quaint patio. Their thin and crisp restaurant style chips (which are bizarrely rare in LA) and spicy puréed salsa already had most of the city beat within minutes of sitting. To drink I decided to start with their signature - How can you come to a place called Cacao and not try their Mexican hot cocoa? As it was a weekend morning, I opted for coffee with mine and got the Azteca Mocha Latte. This divine (massive!) mug was a rich frothy treat with cinnamon, almond, chile de arbol, and chipotle notes. The spice awoke my senses before the caffeine had an opportunity. I'd certainly come back for this alone.Little did I know, the best was yet to come... Cat and I ordered a sampling of their more interesting taco options (there are many) which came out on a large platter with radishes and fresh lime wedges.First bite was the Camarones Enchipotlados - shrimp in chipotle with citrus. Tangy, spicy and wet, it was a satisfying start. Cacao's homemade tortillas are larger and thicker than most local joints, with that much more space to fill with the good stuff! Next was a bite of the Flor De Calabaza - squash blossoms, poblano strips, queso fresco. Delicate and lovely! I always appreciate the use of squash blossoms - who said vegetarian has to be boring?The next bite may have been my favorite - the Tocino Enchocolatado - supple bacon, Salsa de Cacao, avocado, and crema mexicana. This spicy sweet choco-bacon goodness has to be tried!
Unfortunately after that the Hongo De Portobello (Portobello mushroom, spinach, onion, queso fresco) was less than memorable.My interest was piqued again with the next two, first the Carnitas De Pato, or duck confit (listed with avocado, vinegar, onion, radishes, chile oil... But mine came with just the duck meat - that aside, it was the most succulent yet crispy duck! Very tasty on its own!). And lastly, the Cochinita Pibil reminded me why I wake up in the morning, a moist robust roasted pork in achiote with citrus and pickled onions. The most satisfying three bites of food anyone could ask for. After wiping my brow, and thanking everyone back inside, only a matchbox chocolate tamale stood between me and the sublime.

1576 Colorado Blvd. Los Angeles, CA 90041; 323.478.2791

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Croquer: The Gorbals

Palm Court Ballroom, The Alexandria, circa 1920

The Gorbals, The Alexandria, circa 2009

The woman seemed to be dancing with the stale lobby air, an invisible embrace of ease and grace. We were peering curiously past her into The Gorbals, recently opened on the bottom floor of one of downtown LA's reclamation hopefuls, the 1906 rough-around-the-edges Alexandria Hotel (where my companion also happens to live). Once we were in the dancing woman's sights, there was no escaping. She stepped toward us. "Siddown! Come on in boys.. Enjoy yourselves!" She waved her arm dramatically, voice echoing down the empty marble corridor. "First drink's on me!"
Trusting an impulse, I punched Ryan's arm, "Alright!"
The waitstaff inside the almost empty room were gathered around the bar, and by the looks on their faces I could tell this woman out front not only had been hanging out for a while, but definitely was not their enthusiastic employed hostess. Last to turn was Ilan Hall, saddled at the end of the bar, laptop and whiskey glass in front of him, trademark eyeglasses catching the fluorescent kitchen light in the otherwise dim room. The Top Chef winner and LA transplant seemed as comfortable as a mafia kingpin in his new restaurant's sketchy/cozy digs. He smirked at us as the bartender dropped two coasters and a thankful/understanding look.
A row of Scotch bottles lined the bar, a couple of beers on tap rising above them. We ordered two draught Sierra Nevada Celebration Ales and looked over the small one page food menu. I had read many things about the Gorbals, most memorably that Hall had described it as "old Jewish food date-raped by bacon." A closer look shows an eclectic array of fusion peasant food, largely meaty European country & pub fare optimizing the rare and/or discarded animal bits, with a pinch of Israeli flare (his mother is Israeli, and the name the Gorbals refers to the culture-rich neighborhood in Glasgow where his father grew up).
We weren't itching for a meal, more a small nosh with our beer, which was par for the tapas-like menu. We started with the Bacon-Wrapped Matzoh Balls with horseradish mayonnaise. Jewish, bacon, indecent carnality, it was all there with this signature bite, and sinfully tasty, though simple. The Butternut Squash Latkes on the other hand were complex and subtle, perfectly matched with a lightly sweet, ambrosia-like, fluffy sunchoke cream. I could have eaten 3 orders (though yes, probably would have died from the grease). Had I been moving on to a main course, it would have been the GLT (Gribenes, Lettuce and Tomato on rye), gribenes (crispy fried chicken skin) cheerfully replacing bacon. We washed our interesting sampling down with another beer and left the room as empty as we found it, our dancing queen long gone, the staff once again gathered near the bar.

The Gorbals
501 South Spring St. Downtown LA; 213.488.3408
The Gorbals on Urbanspoon
Interior photos via &