Monday, August 16, 2010

Croquer: Plate by Plate 2010

All dressed up and nowhere to go. The opposite was the case this past Saturday night when a last minute hookup from Food Marathon sent me on my way downtown to the Wallis Annenberg Building at the California Science Center to cover Project by Project's Eighth annual Plate by Plate tasting benefit. Rolling up alongside black suits and cocktail dresses made me sheepishly glance down at my short sleeve button-up and white canvas shoes (thank goodness it wasn't after Labor Day). Luckily a sunny smile from PbP's marketing director Belle Hsu made me feel more than welcomed and sent me on my way into one seriously well-planned party.
The shimmering space-age hangar housed the fifty-some restaurant participants and vendors with ample space to move between the stations.
The well-dressed crowd ping-ponged between wine tasting booths, sake and limoncello vendors, and of course the food...
As PbP supports Asian and Pacific Islander communities, the prevalence of Asian restaurants and dishes was to be expected. And the first stop was one of my favorites, Jitlada Southern Thai cuisine. Their spicy Crying Tiger Beef and Chicken Green Curry set the standard for a quality spread.
Fraiche's Salmon Tartare on a potato chip was the first of MUCH raw fish to be consumed throughout the night!
Mo-chica had one of my favorite bites at the LA Street Food Fest tasting event, and again won my taste buds with their deliciously seasoned Anticuchos.
Bistro LQ's Sweet Pea Tapioca with Smoked Salmon wasn't quite my thing, but was one of the more beautiful presentations.
The Liberty Farm Duck & Heirloom Melon Salad from Craft Los Angeles was a tasty twist on prosciutto (though mine lacked the melon!)
The Pepper Crusted Yellow Fin Tuna, Sweet and Spicy Heirloom Cherry Tomatoes with Star Anise Essence from Café Pinot was indeed peppered! A bit too much for my taste (caused a light cough), it simply overwhelmed the other flavors.
Musha's Spicy Tuna and Rice Cracker was a nice marriage, but I could have gone for a smaller helping! Hated to leave any unfinished. Their marinated Kushi Kara tofu kebab was incredibly chewy and a lesser favorite.
When I asked Eric Greenspan of the Foundry on Melrose what was in his curious looking "Albacore Tartare" he said "too many things to list!" The meaty menage included crisped cheese, beef, onions, and the popular potato chip.
One of my favorite dishes that really captured an unforgettable and layered single bite was the Pomegranate Glazed Duck Meatballs with Parsnip Puree & Orange Essence from Executive Chef Amar Santana of Charlie Palmer at Bloomingdale's South Coast Plaza. Not generally a huge proponent of foam, the light orange essence froth here was lovely with the rich and juicy duck.
A presentation mark goes to Roy's Hawaiian Fusion Cuisine, their New Style Hamachi Poke ceviche with caviar the lustful little martini glass on everyone's plate (and it was tasty too). The Forbidden Black Thai Rice Pudding was a welcomed sweet bite at this point, with a lingering herbaceous after taste.
Chef Brian Redzikowski of the Thompson Beverly Hills composed a tidy Spot Prawn "Cuban Style", which is when I realized I was getting very, very full...
But not too full for Perfecto Rocher's Kampachi with Apple Arugula Avocado Foam and Shiso Flowers. This absolute stunner from The Blvd (along with impressive design elements and, well, pure charisma) won head of the class for me. Again with the foam, but here as a bracingly crisp planty kiss atop the kampachi. Wow!
One last savory from One World Vegetarian Cuisine made me realize I had to stop... I do have to give their Vegan Shrimp Spring Rolls & Vegan BBQ Drumsticks credit for being deceivingly authentic tasting meatless bites however! But alas, I had to take a stroll around, taste some wine & sake, and prepare myself for at least a few dessert tid bits from the kitchens' second guard...
Craft's Peach Tart Tatin with Sauternes Sabayon was a warm flaky pastry reminder of my Czech family's summer favorite peach dumplings.
Bistro LQ's sweets were more to my liking, with a Black Sesame Macaron and Tuille Cone with White Chocolate Ice Cream and American Caviar. The satisfying salty crunch of the caviar may have added a new favorite ice cream topping to my list...
Fraiche's Panna Cotta with Watermelon Soup struck me as odd, the cream slowly curling into the watermelon liquid, not the most appealing texture combo, but a very palatable dessert.
I unfortunately missed Starry Kitchen's Tofu Balls (another LASFF fave), but was happy to have another pass at their Pandam Flan! Starry Kitchen always wins my spirit award - they're so damn cool!
I munched my taro Yogurtland with mochi bits like a food zombie as the celebrity sous chefs were introduced and the event winded down, and slowly made my way out into the night, wishing I had taken the bus so I could jog back to Hollywood...
For more info on Project by Project and their non-profit partner Health Justice Network visit

Friday, August 13, 2010

Buvare: Little Dom's Sno Ball

Sometimes you just HAVE to try something, and it will plague your every waking hour until you submit. That was my week after reading about Little Dom's summer offering of alchoholic shaved ice Sno Balls.
Leaving work early today, Cara and I cruised down to our favorite neighborhood joint for a couple of frosty balls. I got the Coconut Cream Sno Ball, shaved ice toasted coconut-infused evaporated milk and a no-nonsense shot of Old New Orleans Cajun Spice Rum on the side.
Cara opted for the Chocolate Sno Ball made with bittersweet Valrhona cocoa powder.
Though a nice idea, and quite tasty, consuming the hardened shaved ice and sidecar of rum in a brimming paper cup was... really a logistical nightmare. The tables on either side of us watched in disinterested awe as we silently fiddled with our balls using tiny plastic spoons, letting out an occasional "oh jeez!"
The woman next to us put it best when she exclaimed "it's really an event!"
The Sno Balls are available loaded up from Little Dom's, or of the virginal variety from Little Dom's Deli next door. Challenge your summer with a cocktail that's also a crowd-winning parlour game.
2128 Hillhurst Ave. Los Feliz; 323.661.0055

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Plate By Plate 2010 Preview

This Saturday July 13 Project by Project (PbP) hosts its Eighth annual tasting benefit Plate by Plate at the Wallis Annenberg Building at the California Science Center. PbP is a national volunteer organization of social entrepreneurs that serves Asian American non-profits in need by raising public awareness, volunteerism, and capital (this year's non-profit partner is the Health Justice Network). As is tradition, the Plate by Plate benefit event will showcase a top notch spread of tasty morsels from LA's top chefs and restaurants, as well as samplings from premier wineries and beverage companies.

Participants this year include:

Bistro LQ
JiRaffe (VIP)
Roy’sStarry Kitchen
The Foundry
Bond Street
Susina BakeryMaison Akira
La Cachette Bistro
Jamaica’s Cakes
Valerie Confections
Charlie Palmer
Plush Puffs
and more

Go here for profiles on PbP participating restaurants and chefs

VIP tickets are $200 and General Admission tickets are $125 in advance online.
General Admission tickets will be available for $150 at the door.

Wallis Annenberg Building at the California Science Center
700 Exposition Park Drive
Los Angeles, CA 90037
View Map

PbP 2009 photos courtesy of Food Marathon

Monday, August 9, 2010

En Vitesse: A Florist's Sweet Tooth

My friend Brooke might be the most talented cake decorator.. ever. I've seen her create edible fondant Nike shoes, cassette tapes, sharks, crowns, vases, and even a woman's bust, but the 4-tiered cake she just finished for a friend's wedding is seriously one of the most tasteful and stunning works of art I've ever seen. Portland, take note! It doesn't get better than this.
Check out her food/craft blog Little Bird Big City and more cake art here

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Voyager Bien: Georgetown, CO

I think I know what's been keeping you up at night. You have NO IDEA where to dine when you go to Georgetown, Colorado next, right?? Well, lucky for you I recently visited the Victorian silver mining town and uncovered my own treasure at the mountain's base.
52 miles west of Denver, on the "C.C." division of the Union Pacific railway, Georgetown is a dusty boom town time capsule nestled between some of the most lofty peaks in the Colorado Rockies. Charming as the historic main drag mercantile and soda fountain were, I began to worry a little about what we would eat for lunch. I foresaw a dry burger from a saloon, but where we ended up was a delightful surprise.
Leave it to my sister, the Iron Planner, to research out the best place in town. To boot the Euro Grill serves the food of 'our people', their menu focusing largely on Bohemian and Czech peasant food (cuisine increasingly hard to come by in the West).
We were almost the only people in the cozy, cabin-like dining room, windows looking out over a rushing creek where a patio deck was being built (oh were they finished!). The bartender -who was from Prague- seemed pleased to have diners familiar with his home, chatting us up while pouring Pilsner Urquel and Warsteiner Dunkel to quench our afternoon thirst.
There are so many tasty and comforting options on the menu, but the server helped me decide finally on the Szegedin Goulash. The flavors were so much more sophisticated than the description "chunks of pork in a sauerkraut cream sauce" makes it sound. The savory and slightly tangy sauce base was imbued with the rich pork flavor, the meat falling apart with the softest touch of a fork. The airy potato dumplings reminded me of the holidays with my family, an ideal side for sopping up the goulash, along with a hefty scoop of sweet and sour cabbage. This is serious Euro comfort food 101. So good!
My sister was tempted by the pork schnitzel, which was fried lighter than I recall from my teenage exploration of Austria, Germany and the Czech Republic (where I had much schnitzel)... But this is not a complaint! It was golden deliciousness. The crispy potato pancakes we got my four year old niece were herbed and earthier than I'm used to, but didn't seem to phase her, eager to finish and get out to play across the street at one of the coolest (appropriately Alpine-themed) park playgrounds I've seen.
Dessert was a couple handfuls of sweet cinnamon popcorn (addictive) and assorted goodies from the old-fashioned Georgetown Valley Candy Company while chasing nieces and strolling the historic streets, breathing the freshest mountain air these Angeleno lungs have encountered in quite some time!
Euro Grill
1025 Rose St. Georgetown, CO 80444; 303.569.2126

Georgetown Valley Candy Company
500 6th St. Georgetown, CO 80444; 303.569.2778