Showing posts with label chilaquiles. Show all posts
Showing posts with label chilaquiles. Show all posts

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Dining with Doug and Karen

A few months back, my Table Set co-host Andy Windak was invited to join TJ Miller as guest chef on the Nerdist podcast Dining with Doug and Karen. They were so impressed with Andy's whimsical and heartfelt spread that they invited him back for another round. And this time, Andy asked me to join him and create a beverage program to be paired with his Breakfast for Dinner menu.

The guest co-host on our episode was Tim Heidecker of Tim & Eric fame and most recently his film The Comedy, making the total three wisecracking comedy folk to please.
No pressure.

We were given Meltdown Comics' green room to stage, where I set up a makeshift bar (which seemed to elicit excitement from the podcast's cocktail-loving producer).

I was most excited to serve the first drink, a shot to be served alongside Andy's amuse bouche. It was the first idea I experimented with once I knew the theme was breakfast, elevated: A Bloodless Mary. The concept is pretty simple, really: Infuse the spirit with tomato rather than clog the glass with thick juice. I picked cherry tomatoes from my garden and steeped them in gin for a week. The resulting liquor was golden and heady with a sun-kissed tomato cologne, bright and familiar on the palate with a lasting umami quality. I mixed the gin with lemon juice, bacon bitters, a dash of Crystal hot sauce, black pepper and celery salt, then served in frosty lemon-pepper ice shot glasses. Instant breakfast party!

Andy's amuse was a delicious Benedict Bite of homemade English muffin, fried speck, poached quail egg, and scratch hollandaise.

For round two I knew Andy was injecting some Latin love, so I mixed up a Dirty Horchata cocktail. Here I infused smoky Mezcal with Stumptown Guatemalan coffee beans, shaken with horchata and cocoa mole bitters until frothy, garnished with freshly shaved cinnamon.

The horchata was served alongside Andy's Chicken & "Waffles" -or- Coq Au Vin Chilaquiles, a composition of duck-fat-fried corn chips, braised chicken, salsa, queso fresco, cilantro, and a waffle fried egg.

What breakfast menu would be complete without the iconic Mimosa? For a seasonal twist I used dry French brut hard sparkling apple cider in place of bubbly. For the juice element I froze popsicles of fresh orange and brown sugar with a rosemary sprig "stick." The brut cider nibbled away at the ice pops slowly releasing and blending the flavors.

The corresponding course was Andy's fish course. He served Shrimp and Grits Poutine - Fish fumet gravy, butter-poached shrimp, grits "waffle fries," and bacon fat rouille.

For dessert I went with a coffee-replacing Breakfast Beer. Mikkeller Beer Geek Breakfast (oatmeal stout brewed with coffee) enhanced lightly with Amontillado and Pedro Jiminez Sherry, garnished with a Stumptown coffee bean and freshly grated nutmeg.
Andy matched the robustness with his Hallowaffle - A pumpkin waffle, Count Chocula ice cream, maple bourbon syrup, chocolate whipped cream, and maple bacon crumble. As a bonus round he also brought out Booberry and Frankenberry ice creams. Nuts!

Overall I think our creativity was appreciated, though pushing the envelope always results in a few confounding reactions. Listen for yourself and imagine what it all must taste like while listening to other people sip, chew and slurp. (*wink*)

Listen to our episode of Dining with Doug and Karen

Photos by Ted Houser

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Croquer: Homegirl Café

I have heard about Homeboy Industries over the years, the nation's largest gang intervention program started by priest Father Greg in downtown LA, offering job training and placement, tattoo removal, psychological services, anger management classes, legal services, and most of all a community for men and women who are in desperate need of hope. But it wasn't until recently that I had heard about Homegirl Café & Catering, staffed by 30 young women who are in training to learn the various aspects of the food service industry, plating some incredibly fresh and delicious Mexican dishes, most of the produce direct from their own organic garden. Now serving Saturday brunch in addition to weekday breakfast and lunch, I had a couple of friends meet me downtown to kick off our weekend. 
The sunny, modern space was clearly already a popular brunch destination, we got a table just before the room completely filled up. The service was extremely friendly, and upon asking, the recommendations came flying. Our server suggested Angela's Potion to drink, described as spinach and mint limeade. "Trust me, it's goood," she assured, and it was! Frothy fresh from a juice maker, the concoction was tart, herby and refreshing. My friend Kaya got Sarah's Drink, a vibrant Raspberry and Mango juice.
Now with more anticipation, we dug into the extensive menu, perplexed as to what to get. The brunch offerings spanned a large variety of Mexican breakfasts, tacos, salads, and unique sandwiches such as Chata's Sandwich (roast beef with spicy apple & tomatillo salsa, red onions & mayo) and Consuelo's Sandwich (homemade jalapeno pesto, panela cheese, lettuce, tomatoes, onions & mayo).
But let's be honest, when Chilaquiles are on a menu, and featured as they were on Homegirl's menu, it's a no-brainer. Homegirl's crisp tortillas are simmered in salsa and topped with red onions, cotija cheese, sour cream & cilantro, with choice of green tomatillo salsa or Gabrielle’s morita salsa, and served with choice of black beans, salad or Homegirl potatoes. Kaya went with the morita red sauce and potatoes, while I went tomatillo, black beans and added a fried egg. Though I enjoyed my bracingly tart plato verde, the smokey morita chilaquiles hit the spot with adequate heat and bold flavor.
Cat arrived fashionably late and ordered the Enchiladas Negras, rolled tortillas stuffed with scrambled eggs and topped with salsa negra and cotija cheese, served with cabbage, jicama, orange and cucumber slaw. The salsa negra was rich and delicious, I found myself sneaking spoonfuls from the edge of Cat's plate.
In fact, all of the sauces were so tasty that I was very happy to read today that Homegirl salsa is due to start arriving in Ralph’s stores soon, and also that a Homegirl Café is being seriously considered for a new section of LAX.
Thankfully Homeboy’s businesses—the Homeboy bakery, Homeboy Silkscreen and the Homegirl Cafe—are all largely self-sustaining. But the main services that Homeboy provides to approximately 12,000 people each year from gangs all over LA County who come for help are given away free. Since 2008, like many nonprofits, Homeboy has seen its grants and donations slide drastically. Meanwhile, fiscal hard times caused the number of people in need of Homeboy’s services to rise. Now, an estimated $5 million is needed to keep Homeboy going.
In May, Father Greg and his senior staff had to lay off 330 of their 427 employees.
“People are willing to raise tens of millions to save the Hollywood sign and MOCA,” said Greg following the announcement, “and I don’t begrudge that. I love MOCA. I just wish the same level of concern was present when it comes to saving the real, live human beings who come through our doors every day at Homeboy.”
Those wishing to donate to Homeboy Industries can do so here, while supporting Homegirl Café and Homeboy's other businesses will continue to help.
And after such a lovely experience, I personally can't wait to go back. The food is undeniably Angeleno, and loaded with heart.

130 Bruno St. Downtown LA; 323.526.1254
Homegirl Cafe on Urbanspoon

Monday, April 26, 2010

Croquer: Mercantile

A perfect brunch is the quickest way to my heart. Despite my intense love for Los Angeles, there has always been a fallow pocket in said heart awaiting its unrequited. Many have come close, but after living in Portland where brunch is quite literally sanctified, I will be the first to admit how high my standards are. Enter the modest and saintly Mercantile. Quietly it entered the scene some months ago tucked in an offbeat stretch of Sunset not used to the weekend brunch crowd. Which immediately made me like it. Still rarely overcrowded, Mercantile offers an extremely level-headed, approachable, and knowledgeable staff, a casual no-frills setting, yet incredibly high end food. It is something this city has been begging for, and I'm praying it continues to deliver.
Serving double as a marketplace, Mercantile has a stocked cheese case, shelves of condiments, affordable hard-to-find house-packed spices, Dolin Vermouth (the best), imported oils and vinegars, and a sinful display of daily homemade doughnuts, 'oreos', canneles, other breakfast goodies and gorgeous desserts.
Once seated in the main market space, lofted dining room, patio or bar, a clipboard displays their brunch menu and all its country comfort glory. If it's a hair of the dog morning, Mercantile makes a mean housemade bloody mary served in a frosty mason jar. Of course there's always a mimosa, but for a twist try their French 75, gin blended with lemon, lime, and orange zest, a splash of juice from each, and topped with sparkling wine.
My first bite at Mercantile was the Chilaquiles (always a defining breakfast dish), theirs made with a pumpkin seed chile sauce, topped with cotija and a sunny side up eggs. A robust, crispy take on the dish, perfectly cooked eggs bolstering a thumbs up.
To share at the table, the Ginger Snap Pancakes with vanilla soaked prunes, mascarpone & almonds. What sounds saccharine is actually quite spicy and refined, a trace of syrup on the plate the only truly sweet component. Recommended for those tempted by breakfast's sweet side, but easily overwhelmed by sugar.
The winner of the first visit was the genius Southern Benedict, poached eggs atop corn meal cakes, a hearty crab-tasso ham ragout, mustard greens, and a purely evil Tabasco hollandaise! Spicy, crabby and decadent.. a veritable Louisiana hangover helper.

Other winners I've had since (oh yes, I've been back) include the Duck Confit Hash with sunny-side up egg, sweet potato, wild arugula, candied black walnut, caramelized onion and mustard. But my favorite dish to date is the Maple Glazed Pork Belly. Quite the "it" dish lately, this pork belly stands apart as probably the best I've ever had, tender and smoky with a kiss of woody sweetness, served over white grits, topped with scallions, and sunny side up egg, and drizzled with a fine maple reduction. Magnifique!

Do yourself a favor this weekend and enter Mercantile's warm embrace.

6600 West Sunset Blvd. Hollywood; 323.962.8202
The Mercantile on Urbanspoon