Showing posts with label grits. Show all posts
Showing posts with label grits. Show all posts

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Croquer: Salt's Cure

I'm still pretty iffy when it comes to Twitter.
I mean, I tweet... it's just not my forté as far as communication goes. I guess I'm getting the hang of it. "Meeting" some folks and networking a bit. I've definitely never been asked out on Twitter - or have I?
Following Foodbuzz Fest the little bird did deliver one proposition... a tweet from the baking blog goddess Joy the Baker herself:
@windattack @chocomeat i think the three of us should get dinner. there... i said it.
Naturally the Wind Attack and I were down for food fun. But where would our trifecta of particular tastefulness agree on meeting?
Salt's Cure, of course.
It was a happenin' night at the restaurant, a spare, open-kitchen West Hollywood storefront seemingly operating on word of mouth (no signage then). The bar around the exhibition kitchen was lined with pickle jars and twenty-somethings, the high ceiling collecting the room's jabber and sending it back down in garbled echoes. Joy the Baker was fashionably late and looked smashing. Met by candlelight, the three of us smiled cordially (not unlike a good first date), reviewed the bottle list and got acquainted.
Our server helped us select the 2005 Benjamin Silver Syrah. Round, sexy, bold fruit makes this a lovely food wine, but also just a great WINE wine.
Salt's Cure is a glorified butcher shop, so of course charcuterie is the way to go. We started with the pickle plate and built up a board from there. The house-pickled selection included cabbage, cucumber, watermelon, tomato, and jalapeño.
The three cheeses braced by almonds, dates, and honey were the always winning Red Hawk (cow), Camellia (goat), and Stout Cow (raw cow).
We couldn't resist the sultry duck ham. Who knew prosciutto could get more luxe?!
An order of cured lamb shoulder followed the cheeseboard, resting on thinly sliced apples. Delicious.
We split two entrees, snagging the last Lemon Snapper per our server's strong suggestion. What a sublime dish! The fish was juicy and tender, bites melting like creamy lemon-zested butter pats. Atop a mound of wilted kale, fried lemon peel and crisp potato sheers, the dish was a triumph of simplicity. It was unaminous - we were in love.
How long could we ignore the other, more fragrant plate on the table? One taste of the Chili Braised Pork-N-Grits and I was smiling. Akin to a REALLY GOOD tamale, the marriage of steamy corn meal product and luscious fork-hugging pork was -as always- simply trouble. We tried to be polite, but crossed utensils more than once over this dish.
Dessert. First out was a Dulce de Leche Semifreddo, or, an experiment in monochromy. Maybe it was the wine, or the lingering pleasure of the entrees, but I don't recall this one blowing me away (yet I do remember the fresh boiled peanuts on top, which were salty good times).
The other dessert, a Sticky Walnut Heirloom Pumpkin Cake was more favorable, if not suffering from an identity crisis. Pumpkin pie? Sticky toffee woohoo? Cake?? Whatever the genetic makeup, it was a toothsome end to an impressive display from Salt's Cure - A very welcome LA addition, especially in a neighborhood known for... Well, I think there's an Astro Burger close-by?
7494 Santa Monica Blvd. West Hollywood, CA 90046; 323.850.SALT
saltscure.com
Salt's Cure in Los Angeles on Fooddigger
Salt's Cure on Urbanspoon

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
frenchsoulfood.com
Brenda's French Soul Food on Urbanspoon

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Croquer: Lüke

World class celebrity chefs are to New Orleans what roach coaches are to Los Angeles; A prideful culinary infestation. A James Beard Award-winning NOLA restaurant group heavyweight, John Besh takes a fresh local approach to his menus, each inspired by a different period or aspect of the city's history. Domenica acknowledges the influence of Italian immigrants on New Orleans cuisine, American Sector (in The National World War II Museum) updates Americana classics, and La Provence is a bona fide country farm & kitchen that produces both livestock and produce for his restaurants.
For brunch on Saturday, we were swayed by the menu at Lüke, Besh's homage to the French and German brasseries of old New Orleans. We hailed a cab to the Central Business District's Hilton New Orleans St. Charles Avenue Hotel where Lüke resides off the grand entrance hall.
The ceiling was the first thing I noticed inside Lüke, with gleaming gold tin tiles and an impressive set of belt and pulley driven ceiling fans. The massive wooden bar filled half of the space, an ice bed on its corner filled with fresh raw oysters. We started with a round of Hendrick's gin bloody marys, an herby twist that may have to become my standard.
I had been looking forward to consuming a big plate o' cochon and eggs since landing in NOLA. And it was time. The smoky cochon au lait was scattered over an open faced biscuit, topped with two soft-poached eggs, southern greens, and tasso hollandaise. Flavor explosion! The greens were succulent and salty, the cochon tender and rich, Tasso hollandaise simply a sin. The eggs were undercooked for my taste (gelatinous whites), but overall a delicious and filling dish.
Larry favored the Croque Madame, a French classic of grilled ham and Emmenthaler cheese sandwich topped with a fried organic egg, served with a cone of crisp twice-cooked frites.
Michael ordered my second choice, the Louisiana shrimp and grits, with McEwen and Sons grits, Poche’s andouille, and two poached yard eggs. My allegiance may still lie with Mr. B's as far as NOLA shrimp & grits go, but still quite a satisfying Southern breakfast.
We attempted not to overstuff ourselves, it was apparently Besh Day for us, with reservations at his signature restaurant August just hours away...

333 Saint Charles Ave. New Orleans, LA; 504.378.2840
lukeneworleans.com
Lüke Restaurant 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
themercantilela.com
The Mercantile on Urbanspoon