Showing posts with label olvera street. Show all posts
Showing posts with label olvera street. Show all posts

Monday, February 15, 2010

Croquer: LA Street Food Fest Overview

I'm not going to be unreasonable, a first time event is difficult - I've been there, gone through it. It's mayhem. For anyone who attempted attending the 1st annual LA Street Food Fest this past Saturday, you may feel a flare of frustration at the very mention. But let's recognize the positive - a LOT of people in LA love and care about street food, a bounty definitely worth celebrating. Also encouraging is the increasing number of Angelenos sharpening their foodie chops and keeping our diverse and exciting culinary scene thriving.
That said, the weekend was not without a few bumps in the road. If there's going to be a 2nd annual Street Food Fest, well, I am sure the organizers have more than enough feedback by this point. And since I didn't actually get IN, here is what I have to represent my experience on Saturday: A slew of text messages from and between friends of mine who also trekked downtown to end up eating... anything but street food.
Bon appetit!

11:16am: Are you going to the Street Food fest? Downtown now, looking for parking...

11:21am: Is it Crazy? Going a little later...

11:37am: We're leaving. It's kind of ridiculous. They just opened the gates. Bad setup. Maybe it'll be better later?

11:38am: Oh man! Thx for the report...

11:46am: OK see you @ 1215. A drink before sounds that much better now. She also said parking was difficult.

12:08pm: just heard from Tim the line is very, very long.

12:19pm: Sorry Traffic is retarded.

12:23pm: i think we should all meet there. i am in bad shape. just took a muscle relaxer, will see how it goes.

12:59pm: Food fest fail. 2 hour line to get in. Off to explore downtown.

1:29pm: Having a difficult day. heard the line is super long... tried to find it anyway got really lost... got into fight with parking lot attendant who held me hostage. currently at olvera street having a marg.

2:05pm: Tried. failed. Dwntwn nightmare.

2:16pm: where r u exactly?

3:18pm: Failed. On Olvera instead. You?

3:20pm: Also failed. At Grand Central market instead.

4:08pm: we ditched the food fest. kept walking around to find brunch. everywhere we went had a 45 minute wait. we walked around for hours. ended up at this little cafe where all i could eat was their smooshed avocado on toast.

4:08pm: though it was pretty good

Did you get in? Get to EAT anything yummy?
Share your texts with ChocoMeat!

Monday, April 27, 2009

Voyager Bien: 1.5 days in LA

A friend told me this week that I should probably get paid to introduce people to LA as a personal tour guide. It is one of my favorite things to do - driving from neighborhood to neighborhood, pointing out the best hidden strip mall treasures, James Beard award-winning taco shacks, legendary rock n roll monuments, haunted hotels, gorgeous apartments I tried to rent, best city views, secret beaches, design boutiques, specialty food markets, treat shops, and margarita cantinas. I sure exercised my guide muscle this past weekend, with a new challenge. Two of my best friends who reside in Portland came down for a grad school visit/whirlwind "get to know you, LA" trip - A 36 hour kinda whirlwind. The clock was ticking and I was set on doing my best to traverse common misconceptions of the City of Angels and thoroughly impress them!
Here's a rundown of some top hits from the schedule:

• In lieu of a pricey cab, I had them take the $6 FlyAway Bus from LAX to historic Union Station downtown and chill on Olvera Street until I could get out of the office and down to meet them. I was greeted with smiles and a bag of candied whole limes stuffed with coconut and fragrant chili dusted tamarind balls.

• After freshening up we hit Mexico City in Los Feliz for a satisfying dinner of sopes, carne asada, delicious mole poblano and of course margaritas. We walked down Hillhurst to Alcove to pick up dessert to go, selecting a molten chocolate souffle and pb&j cupcake. Grabbed a 75 cl Chimay Grande Réserve (Blue) on the way back home and enjoyed our indulgent gatherings.

• An early rise called for hand-shaken Iced Angelenos at Intelligentsia pronto!

• After leaving campus, our leisurely lunch hunt landed us at M Cafe de Chaya for winning salad The M Chopped (organic hearts of romaine, mixed greens, avocado, cucumber, chickpeas, herb-baked tofu, scallions, ume-pickled radishes, carrots, beets, tamari-roasted almonds, crumbled tempeh “bacon” and tofu-peppercorn ranch) and a celeb sighting or two. Followed by a Laurel Canyon/Mullholland drive and brisk walk partway down Runyon Canyon.

• A serene drive out Sunset Blvd to the PCH and north along the Malibu coast to Point Dume for a late afternoon seagazing landed us at the Malibu Pier Club on the way back down for cocktail hour. Our Royal Hawaiians (Mai Tais) and Canyon Margaritas were accompanied by tasty french fries sprinkled with ground dried Japanese seaweed and a creamy sriracha dipping sauce. Yum!

• Back in Hollywood, our original plan of making a taco dinner after such a long day sounded daunting, so we pulled over at La Brea and Wilshire and settled into Luna Park for a casual supper of sausage pizza, spinach salad and beers. Recalling a previous mention, my guests requested one last stop at Scoops where we savored their signature ice cream flavor, Brown Bread. I quite enjoyed the Goat cheese Fig and Coffee Molasses flavors as well.

We fell into our beds Saturday night deep in sun and comfort food comas. I could only imagine my friends' flight at dawn continuing in the same fashion (and judging from the photos, I was right).

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Jury Duty Dining: Inside the Downtown Lunch Scene

"Wow, way to take lemons and make lemonade, Nathan.."
I smiled, looking out of the plate glass lobby of the Walt Disney Concert Hall at a bride awkwardly discharging tulle out of a vintage limo door on the other side.
"Well hey," I retorted into my phone, turning toward the escalator to underground parking. "If I am going to be forced to spend a whole week or more in downtown LA with generous hour and a half lunch breaks, you can BET I will take advantage and at least get a decent blog story out of it." It was day three and I had already covered several downtown neighborhoods and classic LA dining establishments. I was officially on a jury panel in Judge Ito's courtroom and opening statements had been made. Ito guestimated a "couple day" trial, but I was prepared to be around for a while. Luckily downtown LA is one of my favorite sectors that I don't visit nearly enough. Thus I was excited for the challenge to diversify my generous lunch break each day and sample the best of what the civic center has to offer.
On day one I was a bit anxious come lunch as I was to report to a different courthouse after my break for a jury panel selection. Nervous about being late, I just followed the suits to the nearby CPK where I knew I could score a cold pint to calm my nerves. After lunch I walked through the sublevels of the California Plaza adjacent the MOCA and found everywhere I should have eaten, including the "wine country-inspired eco-artisan" Mendocino Farms Sandwiches & Marketplace barracaded by a mob of menu-wrinkling accountants. I picked up a small cup of green tea ice cream at the eurasian-vibed convenience store Famima!! and made my way back to the courthouse.
The next morning started with a long unplanned coffee break, which I filled with a piping cup of champurrado on nearby Olvera Street. Growing up less than an hour from Mexico, I understand that Olvera is touristy yes, but still a great place in LA to score some authentic cuisine, and actually introduced me to the rich frothy masa harina, chocolate, and cinnamon breakfast beverage champurrado - a hearty new favorite of mine.
By lunch I had a new friend and she insisted on introducing me to the world famous Phillipe The Original, self-proclaimed originator of the "french-dipped sandwich." Entering this madhouse took me back in time, one long deli counter runs the length, fronted by a battalion of sandwich-makin' matrons in 50's waitress smocks and paper diner hats doling out trays to one of some 12 long lines of hungry downtowners. Anticpation mounted in the line as I shifted on the sawdust covered concrete floor, deciding between sandwich meat; mayonnaise-based side salads; and kosher pickled items on the side.. I ended up with an au jus-logged pork french dip with swiss, paprika dusted old fashioned potato salad, bright purple pickled egg, a sweet pickle and arnie palmer to drink. Possibly the most satisfying of my lunches all week, I was ready to get back in line for sampling #2 when my fellow juror and I realized we were running late. I will SOON return my fair Phillipe..
Day three brought me back to square one, as my new friend was dismissed from the panel and the jury was locked. I decided that today I would take a longer walk to South Main and Winston, a block down from Pete's Cafe and the hip Old Bank DVD to Vietnamese hot spot Blossom Restaurant. I snagged a patio table out front and immediately had an iced coffee with condensed milk and menu in front of me, waitress asking what I'd like. They obviously were used to the lunch rush here. I ordered the lemongrass steak and eggroll Bún (cold vermicelli rice noodle bowl). Within minutes I was chopstick-deep into one of the most delicious peanut-dusted cilantro-heavy Bún bowls I've ever had. I routinely enjoy Silverlake's Pho Café, but in the future might venture downtown more often for my Shaking Beef.
Since Jurors get into MOCA free with their badge, I decided after we were released at 4pm to make the most of my plan-free evening. After checking out the fantastic Martin Kippenberger Retrospective at the MOCA on Main, I continued on to his massive "Problem Perspective" installation at the MOCA Geffen Contemporary space in Little Tokyo, coupled with a colossal group show Index: Conceptualism in California from the Permanent Collection. I left filled to the brim; a daze that took me back to art school reviews, so I quelled myself in the Japanese Village Plaza with mindless shopping for cheap household goods at Tokyo Japanese Outlet and a dinner grocery stop at Nijiya Market, one of my favorite food shops that I affectionately refer to as the "Trader Joe's of Asian Markets." I skipped them that night, but Fugetsu-do and Mikawaya are also two essential stops in the neighborhood, sweet shops specializing in Mochi that have been operating since 1903 and 1910 respectively.
On day four I returned to Olvera Street for the food.. Most locals know to pass up the over-priced sit-down restaurants and head straight for the hole-in-the-wall counter spots that get lost among the cluttered vendor booths. Though corner mast Cielito Lindo is arguably the most popular of these, and though I usually visit La Noche Buena for my taquito, tamale and jamaica fix, Juanita's charming vendor who sold me on the champurrado earlier in the week brought me back for what may have been the best tangy guacamole sauce covered taquito combo plate on the street yet.
Finally, deliberation day had come, and I knew I had to use my last lunch wisely. There were so many places I had not tasted yet: Señor Fish's new downtown location, The Redwood Bar's infamous burger, historic French bistro Angelique Café, or my favorite hidden gem in Little Tokyo - the yellow-awned Daikokuya on First Street serving up the best ramen in LA. But history trumped taste buds today and I ventured down old Broadway all the way to 8th Street to finally see the eccentric Granddaddy of all cafeterias, Clifton's. The redwood forested interior was delightfully dated, though the clientele were less inviting than I'd hoped, and actually caused me to check to make sure I still had my wallet. I went through with it though and moved down the line with my warm damp tray, camping it up with a carrot/raisin slaw, Americana enchiladas, spanish rice, jello, and horchata "with fruit". I settled into a table on a terraced forest step and watched the REAL downtown LA dine in front of me in all its glory. The food was.. well, cafeteria food. The fruit was a nice addition to standard horchata however. The big kick came in the form of a cube of jello. Now, I got the opaque white jello with yellow shreds thinking "festive piña colada?" No, it was not. I chewed the first bite unable to detect a flavor. Bites two and three kept me guessing. But the shreds definitely were not coconut or pineapple.. rather a little waxy. It was official this was not a sweet jello. So what WAS it? It hit me with a sickening gulp that I was eating a flavorless white gelatin filled with bland shredded American cheese. I set down my fork, gathered my belongings and left Clifton's then, happy to limit our historic affair to viewing the kitschy vintage postcards on their website.
"Part of me is a little sad," I said into the phone as the bride outside beamed for the photographer. "I've been enjoying this surreal metropolitan urban life. Like I could become a public defender, get a refurbished loft and never look back." After a pause, my friend started laughing, and before I knew it I was too.
'Til next time, downtown...