OMG Food!

Soup's on, folks! I'm Tina M. Courtney, aka PoetKitty -- a Los Angeles based food writer audacious enough to think I can critique all manner of eateries. It's a labor of love, and I'm honored to welcome you. Grab a fork and let's get this party started.

Thursday, August 31, 2006

Social Hollywood - See and Be Scene

Social Hollywood
6525 Sunset Blvd.
Hollywood, CA
8.26.06 - Saturday, 7:00 PM

I'm not sure Social Hollywood even has a wing and a prayer. Jeffrey Chodorow, however, has a reputation, so if anyone can pull off such a lofty goal, one would think he has the mojo. This time, it's a case off bad judgment. I predict a large scale failure.

I had a delightful editor in town who wanted a true Hollywood experience. I chose Social out of curiosity and trust; I knew, regardless of how the food wound up tasting, that it would deliver on scene. And as a big fan of the Hollywood Athletic Club space Social now occupies, I was admittedly excited to see how it was transformed. It so it was. We all descended rather early in the eve, and as my editor was in a whirlwind preparing for a Entertainment Weekly party she simply did not want to be late for, the first half was a whirlwind.

The space is pretty, but not breathtaking. It's separated into distinct sections, and we sat in the front near some lovely stained glass windows. The Moroccan flavor is apparent in the decor, and certainly by spying the menu, but it's a half-ass attempt. Even the wait staff emphasized it's just a "theme" - and honestly, it felt gimmicky, right down to the tacky porcelain the dishes were served on. The problem, I truly feel, is the history of this locale - Valentino fenced here, for crying out loud, how on earth to you encompass such a monumental past full of greatness and glory? It's going to be lackluster. And it was.

I have to say the service, however, was outstanding. Marjorie the editor needed to dine and dash, and they were very accommodating, efficient, courteous, and on the ball. The captain herself took care of us, and I felt pampered. That was a surprise.

The food - oy vey. It was rather what I feared. All kinds of pomp and circumstance, with rather poor execution. Here's the specifics:

The goods:


A bottle of Jade Mountain Pinot - average price, average flavor. Didn't ever really open up - notes were hard to decipher, and it was just a so-so bottle ($40). Our captain was, however, incredibly helpful at assisting the selection - I ordered this before Marjorie arrived, and because she had volunteered to pay, I wanted to keep costs down out of respect. The wine list was actually full of medium range prices, so that was a big bonus.
(see additional after-dinner cocktails at the end)


My favorite part of the meal (that's always sad when they peak at the beginning) - several bread varieties served with hummus and a trio of condiments; a spicy rub, sea salt, and dried herbs. Tasty.


Roast Duck breast and confit leg, sweet and sour orange glaze, stewed Israeli couscous
* Hmm. Close, but not quite. The duck was overcooked and a bit tough, and the sweet/sour orange glaze was actually all about the sweet. Too much so to strike any balance. The couscous was standard - no special spice or pizzazz. If you're going to go Moroccan, don't be afraid to give a serious punch of flavor - this was rather bland and disappointing.

Wild Salmon Filet braised with artichokes, Jerusalem artichokes and truffles
* The salmon was slightly more successful - nice and raw in the center, with a noticeable wild taste, the artichokes matched perfectly. Still, there was simply no wow factor. Since salmon is the ingredient du jour, it's nice to have variations, but this had none to offer.

Aged Strip Steak with celery-truffle gratin, foie gras nage, gremolata
* This dish was also an improvement; buttery smooth steak cooked medium rare, with a sweet foie gras edge and a really lovely gratin. The whole table liked this one a great deal.

Lobster Risotto, with marscapone
* Wow, OK, this made my eyes pop, but only because it was so incredibly rich. Very flavorful, with a healthy dose of lobster, but the extra mascapone sweetness, while quite heavenly for one bite, just overwhelmed the protein. I couldn't handle a second bite, and I'm a lobster addict.


Mashed potatoes with fried olives
* Ohhh. Very, very good tubers. Ultra smooth, not too buttery, and the fried olives were far superior to those I've recently had at Eat. On Sunset.

Sauted Mushrooms
* I believe they served us straight chanterelles, and there's no complaints here - not as mind blowing as those at AOC, but not bad at all.


Social Chocolate Decadence
* Chocolate coconut cake with chocolate gelato and a candied coconut topping
Fine, fine, so you can bake a decadent dessert. Well, who can't? Of course it was tasty, it was almost solid chocolate + butter. But without any ingenuity, this is just another chocolate cake.


Pomegranate Blossom
* Absolut Citron Vodka and Fresh sweetened Lemon juice shaken with Fresh pomegranate juice and topped with a edible flower
Not a bad cocktail - more acidic than annoying sweet, I have to see the edible flower is a nice touch. But no, I didn't eat it.

The Social Martini
Ultimat Vodka and a whisper of dry vermouth, shaken tableside and of course the shaker is yours to keep
* Interesting, as we did not receive this shaken tableside, nor did we score a shaker. This was a $20 martini. Good, but not THAT good. Maybe if I had gotten a shaker out of the deal . . .

The damage for 1 bottle of wine, 2 cocktails, 4 entrees, 2 sides, and 1 dessert was about $270, before tip.

RESTAURANT REPORT CARD - Social Hollywood, visit 1

Ambiance - B-
Service - A-
Food (Taste) - C+
Food (Presentation) - C+
Wine/Drinks - B
Value - C-
Vibe/Energy/Scene - B
Overall Experience - C+

Final word - While we were taken care of, the food execution does not add up to the dollar amounts. Social has bitten off more than it can chew.

For more from moi, hit PoetKitty

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Cat & Fiddle: Drinks, Yes, Food, Hell No

Photo courtesy of CitySearch

Cat & Fiddle
6530 W. Sunset Blvd.
Hollywood, CA
8.26.06 - Saturday, 10:00 PM
Myself + 1 guest (Screenwriter John)

Every now and then, you just gotta hit a British pub.
If said pub happens to have a huge, plush outdoor space with fountains, a killer ambiance, and lots o' green-age, that's an off-the-charts bonus. Cat and Fiddle, a mainstay on an off-the-strip stretch of Sunset Blvd., has all those ingredients. Toss in a bad dose of British food, and you've got the big picture. If you come here with a full belly and a penchant for tasty beers while enjoying the night sky, joy will abound. Just avoid the food. You've been warned.

Saturday night was the eve of the Emmy's, and Los Angeles was feeling saucy. It was undeniable. My pal John and I met up with an editor of mine at Social Hollywood for a Moroccan-style rendevous (review coming in another post - oh heck yes!), and after the fact, the two of us were hankerin' for more cocktails. Since the Cat is just across the street, and it's just shy of being "our special place," we took the plunge.

I love the energy here. The outdoor section is expansive and tree-lined, which casts a very inviting and comfortable aura. The service is tough - you have to muscle your way to the bar most nights (this place does a serious bar-business, especially on the weekends), but once you score a couple of drinks and a spot to rest your dogs, it's all good. I've eaten here on a couple occasions - enough to know better. The crab claws are the only dish worth mentioning - everything else has been abysmal, even by British standards.

Yet the Cat certainly has it's charms. You can rub elbows with industry peeps, regular folk, and the occasional celebrity, and the vibe is always casual and friendly. I've never had a bad social experience here - I think there's truly something in the air. If you're in Hollywood and loving the outdoor dream-weather we enjoy here in Lala, the Cat is a perfect happy hour destination.


Ambiance - A-
Staff/Service - C-
Wine/Drinks - B-
Value - B-
Vibe/Energy/Scene - A-
Overall Experience - B+

Final word - Food, no, but otherwise, an ideal pub hotspot to catch a full moon and a hot date.

Saturday, August 26, 2006

Say It With Me Now - Potato Fritatta

Eggs and tators belong together, baby. The Irish girl in me hears this duo and flat out swoons. So when I'm hungry for comfort, and yet I'd like a little chic-y flair, this is a bueno ideo.

Here's how to make the magic:

8 eggs
Pinch of salt
Wee bit o' milk (whatever fat content you prefer)
Dash o' pepper

Whisk all this yumminess together and set aside.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

1 bunch scallions
1/4 cup olive oil
2 cloves of garlic
2 1/2 cups frozen hash brown potatoes

Heat the oil in a 9 inch heavy skillet at medium high heat - don't let it get smoky. Add scallions and garlic - saute for about a minute (let 'em brown just a smidge). Add potatoes and cook for about 4 minutes, turning once.

Pour in the egg mixture, cover, and place in over for about 16 minutes, until the eggs are set.

Let cool for about 2 minutes, than loosen the sides with a fork, place a plate beneath, flip, slice, serve, eat, love.

I added some hot sauce for a punchy fun kick, but that's certainly not required. I also took a head of escarole, chopped it up with dried red chills and garlic, sauteed in olive oil for 6 minutes, and made that my veggie side. This, my friends, is an Irish-inspired throw down. Comfort, health, and spice.
Bon appetit!

Monday, August 21, 2006

John O' Groats - Can You Say Overrated?

John O' Groats
10516 W. Pico Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA
8.17.06 - Friday, 9:00 AM

John O' Groats is massively adored. I have some friends who swear it's the best breakfast joint in LA. They'll wait for over an hour on a weekend for a table, and rave all the way home. I've been twice now, and I hate to say it, but the hullabaloo is overdone. Groats is good. Sometimes really good. But not the best, by a long shot. I've given it a go twice now, sampling all kinds of dishes, and I'm just not tasting greatness.

Val was my companion this time - one of the Groats believers. He has his birthday breakfast here every year, and loves to sit at the counter. This was the only spot available when we arrived, and so he got his way. I had a corner spot, a rounded edge, with a immovable chair that left me sitting at an awkward angle. Bah. But hey, we didn't wait long. That's quite the victory here.

Service is disinterested but efficient. The specials *do* always sound good. But the execution is always a disappointment. This time around, Val had a special and I ordered what is supposed to be their signature dish - worshipped by many. Here comes the lowdown:

The goods:


We had coffee and water - both rather oogie. The coffee is all-diner style - watery and only a dab of flavor.


Huevos O' Groats
* A tortilla made out of biscuit dough, served with black beans, sour cream, cheddar cheese, pico de gallo, and 2 eggs, over easy, with a side of home fries
On paper - hell yes this sounds good! But it came out a little on the cold side, with runny as can be beans (apparently draining is not their forte). Everything was bland. The tortilla made out of biscuit dough seems like a dose of brilliance, but within a few seconds, it was soggy and tasteless. Likewise with the home fries. Not a top tier breakfast. I would not order this again.

Frittata with Spinach, Crab, and Tomatoes
* Stuffed to the brim with the above ingredients
THIS was a much better creation. Absolutely loaded with all the crab and spinach you could want, with fresh 'maters too. Nice firm consistency, warm and tasty. Still not BEST BREAKFAST EVER material, but totally solid.

The damage for two coffees and two breakfast entrees was about $36, before tip. Too expensive for what we had by about $10.

RESTAURANT REPORT CARD - John O' Groats, Visit 2

Ambiance - C
Service - C+
Food (Taste) - C+
Food (Presentation) - C
Wine/Drinks - C
Value - C
Vibe/Energy/Scene - B-
Overall Experience - C

Final word - If it's Val's birthday breakfast, yes, I'll be back, but I won't ever be the one to scream "Let's go to Groats!"

Sunday, August 20, 2006

Farfalla - Rustic, Homestyle Italian

Farfalla Trattoria
1978 Hillhurst
Los Feliz, CA
8.14.06 - Tuesday, 12:30 PM

It was that time again - lunch with Noah. He's an old co-worker who I won't let go of. Everyone needs one, or twelve, lunching companions. The type that finish your sentences and love to eat as much as you do.

This time around, we chose Farfalla Trattoria in Los Feliz. I was craving authentic and rustic Italian chow, and was warmed by the reviews I read. We arrived during the heart of lunch, yet the place was almost empty. I'm hoping it's a nighttime spot, as it's worthy.

Service was standard - nothing to rave or rant about. The space itself I liked very much - dark wooden walls and accents, and a back wall lined with wine bottles. I felt cozy and comfortable, and the pasta craving kicked in with a vengeance.

The goods:


I didn't eye the wine list, but something tells me it's standard but tasty Italian selections. Had soda and water only.


Fusilli with Aged Ricotta cheese, chanterelles, spinach, and truffle oil
* If you're going to have pasta, go *all* out. I really enjoyed this dish. The olive oil with truffles didn't get lost with the ricotta and other ingredients, and was the shining star. Decadent, but not too rich, the grooves of the corkscrew pasta held tight to pockets of the olive oil and truffle lusciousness, making some bites of this entree an absolute explosion of bliss. Well done indeed.

Gnocchi with Chicken and Pesto
* I loathe overcooked gnocchi - getting the consistency of this potato delicacy is a huge burden, but Farfalla did an outstanding job. The pesto was just so-so, but the gnocchi had a slight firmness, and velvety texture, and a gorgeous smoothness. Chicken, too, was nothing special, but that didn't decrease the yumminess of the potato pasta squares.

The damage for one soda and two entrees was about $28, before tip.

RESTAURANT REPORT CARD - Farfalla Trattoria, Visit 1

Ambiance - B
Service - C+
Food (Taste) - B
Food (Presentation) - C-
Wine/Drinks - N/A (did not consume enough to grade)
Value - B-
Vibe/Energy/Scene - D+
Overall Experience - C+

Final word - I'd like to try some other specialties, but would love more vibrance and energy. Perhaps a Friday night trip is in order.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Literati Cafe - Nice, But No Spice

Literati Cafe
12081 Wilshire Blvd.
Santa Monica, CA
8.13.06 - Monday, 10:30 AM

Literati Cafe has been raking in the accolades. This charming little cafe on a popular stretch of Wilshire is known for organic, fresh goodies and a no-fuss, simple food philosophy. I finally had the chance to swing in for breakfast; my very first visit. It's problematic when the masses have cheered you to pieces, however - expectations can be lofty and unreachable. Such was this trial run.

Suffice to say I was disappointed with my meal; not because it was at all poorly executed, but because those expectations left me wanting more pizzazz. Still, I take responsibility for this one. I think we ordered incorrectly, the whole trio of us.

The story goes like this -
Justy, an angel from way, way back, comes to town from Seattle once a month to visit his charming ten-year old son, Zach. The two of them were headed to Six Flags, and as Zach lives nearby, I chose Literati as the spot for a first-time meeting. We loved the interior - very cozy, neighborhood-centric, and inviting. It's counter service here, which doesn't bother me in the least - only I suffer from a "must order now" stress, and always cave to the first thing that looks remotely interesting in such circumstances. It's a neurotic thing with me. I saw pancakes and eggs and said - YES! That'll do! When I'm table-side and making friends with a menu, I'll study the delicacies and choose not just what sounds good to me, but what the kitchen seems to excel at, or be known for. That way it's a fair assessment.
This time, I failed. I can admit that.

Here's what we had:


Fantastic, full-bodied organic soy latte. Urth, eat your heart out - something about the java here just made me feel awake and soothed, all at once. And they do milk decorations - I'm such a sucker for details.


Buttermilk Pancakes and Scrambled Eggs
* I know, I know - how can I judge a kitchen's talents with such mundane items? I will say the eggs were well-cooked and fluffy, and the pancakes had a serious buttermilk kick; yet, the latter were very, very average. Perhaps I've been spoiled by The Griddle Cafe, but these just left me feeling ho-hum. The syrup was also a disappointment - tasted just like a sugary table-type, instead of something more hearty and authentic.

French Toast
* Huge, thick slices of bread dipped in a cinnamon-spiced batter, dusted with powdered sugar and served with maple syrup.
This was much better than the pancakes, but overcooked - the outer edges were crusty, and the taste of the griddle was more prominent than the spices. Still, these sure beat the standard white bread dipped in egg routine.

Belgian Waffle

* Could we have ordered more carbs? I should have had a pastry on the side. The waffle measured up to the pancakes - good, not great, without any special elements and the same runny syrup.


* We shared a side of overly-cooked bacon.

The damage for three breakfasts, one soda, one latte, and a side of bacon was about $33, not including tip.

My question to you all - how should I order next time? Is Literati best experienced in the evening hours? I need some guidance, lest I cave to the pressure and play it safe again.

RESTAURANT REPORT CARD - Literati Cafe, Visit 1

Ambiance - B-
Service - N/A (it's counter service, so I hesitate to grade them)
Food (Taste) - C
Food (Presentation) - D
Wine/Drinks - N/A (just had coffee, and although it was fab, that's not enough to grade)
Value - B-
Vibe/Energy/Scene - B
Overall Experience - C+

Final word - Disappointing at best, but I take partial credit for being a silly ordering fool. I'll try, try again.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Ocean Seafood - Ode to Garlic Crab

Ocean Seafood
750 N. Hill St.
Los Angeles, CA
8.11.06 - Friday, 2:30 PM
Moi + Judy-Pie

Ocean Seafood is an institution amongst my best friend Judy and me - somehow, it came to be a sentimental favorite. No, not somehow; I'll be honest - it's the crab. And nothing but.

This Chinatown haven is a massive, banquet-style Chinese restaurant on Hill Street. The decor is circa 1985, all faded red tones and golds, with tables and chairs that may have never been in fashion, and are still waiting for their day. When you walk up the stairs to take in this second-floor restaurant, you're greeted with massive tanks of water, showcasing all manner of sea creatures; crab, lobster, fish, you name it. It's a little daunting when you consider, oh, I'm eating one of those fellows, but it's a fact of the food chain and it's worth facing.

Judy and I swooped in on a lazy-dazy Friday afternoon and almost had the place to ourselves. You might think we could enjoy some quality service then, but you'd be wrong. Ocean Seafood is known for their luscious crab, but not for service. Or for dim sum. But if you do one thing this well, some things can be massively overlooked.

We waited for a long spell before one of the many legions of waitstaff finally stopped to take our order. We had the crab. Duh. Which kind is always a big hullabaloo with us, but we turned to the old standby - garlic and chili. Mmmmm yay. Let the games begin.


Just drink water. This place has alcohol, but it blows. And trying to get a soda is like getting an admission of guilt from Rumsfeld - don't hold your breath.
The hot tea, on the plus side, is lovely, and they don't mind refilling the pot quite often.

Dim Sum:

Shrimp Noodle
* We arrived just as the dim sum service was ending, but caught a cart in mid-disappearing act. The only dim sum I like at Ocean Seafood is the shrimp noodle - huge flat silky noodles with shrimp tucked inside, and slathered with a soy sauce. I love the texture.


Crab with Chili and Garlic
* Oh. My. God. This. Is. So. Good. World peace good. Clove kisses good. Just lost ten pounds good. They bring out Mr. or Ms. Crab, alive and kicking, before the cooking begins for approval - I always hate this part but force myself to acknowledge that this is an animal, giving his/her life for me. At least I'm appreciative.
The crustacean is baked with ample garlicky sauce, and served in the shell. It can be an effort getting the sweet meat out of each piece, but I love the interactive nature of this dish. Jud and I always make a mess and have a blast.


Steamed Rice
* I don't know how they manage it, but they have some of the worst steamed rice in the world. Always dry and nasty.

Satueed Mustard Greens with Garlic
* If you're gonna have garlic, dammit, have garlic. This is a fav veggie dish - nice crunch to the greens, and generous you-know-what. Goes super-well with the crabby goodness.

The damage for one dim sum, one 2 1/2 pound crab, and two sides $70, including tax and tip.


Ambiance - C
Service - C-
Food (Taste) - B+
Food (Presentation) - C+
Wine/Drinks - D
Value - C+
Vibe/Energy/Scene - C-
Overall Experience - C+

Final word - It's got a place in our hearts, we can't help it. So many happy crabby memories. And there will be more.

Saturday, August 12, 2006

Providence LA - The Tasting Menu

5955 Melrose Ave.
Los Angeles, CA
8.10.06 - Wednesday, 6:00 PM
Moi, Val, his parents, and Christopher

If you read me with any frequency, you know I'm rather obsessed with Providence. She's LA's top restaurant, the only one nominated for a James Beard award this year, and it's the kind of place that can bring back your faith in humanity. Beautifully decorated, exquisitely staffed, and the food - unparalleled. The best seafood dishes imaginable. I life just a quick jaunt away from this gem and it's one of the reasons I won't soon be moving to a different neighborhood - although I now live life on a writer's budget, I will always find a way to splurge at Providence.

This last Thursday, I had the outstanding opportunity to dine with my angels Christopher and Val, plus Val's delightful, married for forty-eight years parents. These folks have traveled the world, and I wanted them to know LA had food that could rival the best of 'em. I trusted Michael Cimarusti's tasting menu could prove just that.

As usual, the staff started spoiling me the moment I walked through the door. This place knows how to make a regular feel special, and to entice us into coming back again and again. That's one thing I must admit about our fair city - service is not an easy blessing to come by. Tis why I'm even more smitten with Prov. They have a marvelous groove, and one needs ask for nothing, It's taken care of.

All but one of us ordered the 5 course tasting menu, but thanks to the generosity of Michael and Adrian, the pastry chef, we walked away with 12 courses of heavenly creations, including the amuse and other side courses. Let's see if I do the rundown justice - it's a new market menu, so I won't remember that majority of the ingredients, but I'll do my bestest!


We had wine pairings with most of the courses - those I recall I will list with each dish. SUCH a great wine list here, though, and the best sommelier in the business - Drew Langley. He's amazing.


A large, crusty roll with butter and (yay!) rock salt - see, it's the little things!

Amuse Bouche:

Israeli Melon soup with Muscat foam and a salmon tartar
* The salmon tartar was very subtle, but the melon goodness, served in a tiny mug-like shot glass, absolutely jolted our taste buds into a gleeful state. So refreshing and phenomenal!

Paired with a Nicolas Feuillatte champagne.

Course One:

Big Eye Tuna Sashimi
* Val declared this the best tuna sashimi he's ever had, and we eat a lot o' sushi. Cubes of the reddest fish you'll ever spy, with an assortment of subtle condiments that drew out the soft textures and salty undertones. Heaven. Seriously, I can't say enough - this was probably my favorite savory dish.

Paired with a magnificent, smooth and dry sake.

Course Two:

Kumamato Oysters, Fried, with accompaniments
* These little morsels melted on tongue-contact. Not at all greasy, with little scallions and a phenomenal light sauce - I seriously could have devoured ten more of these. Perhaps it's the aphrodisiac effect?

Course Three:

Satueed Day Boat Scallop
* One large, succulent, perfectly cooked scallop was served with vegetable goodies, and I can't for the life of me remember the specifics - all I recall is the texture of that scallop. Fresh-caught, soft and silky, with a tad bit of carmelized yumminess on the top and bottom.

Paired with a Vino Verde Portuguese wine. Light, citrusy, refreshing with a tangy punch.

Course Four:

Cod with celery root, onions, vegetables, and a miso-style sauce
* Unlike any cod I've ever had - this had a crispy skin, incredible flaky texture, but a peppery finish I wasn't overly fond of (I rather loathe black pepper, so it's easy to offend me in this respect).

Paired with a Napa Valley Rose - can't recall the producer, but it was a standard, mild, yet fruity glass.

Course Five:

King salmon with crispy skin, onions, what I believe where pistashios, and the most complex, mind-blowing sauce you've EVER EVER HAD
* This was so intense, with the fishy flavor of the skin and the dense yet buttery salmon - a very strong flavor. Nothing shy about this dish. Several folks at the table thought it was too strong, but I loved it.

Paired with an Austrian red - super bold and spicy.

Course Six:

Red pepper ice cream, with a Watermelon and Heirloom Tomato granita
* I can't begin to describe the experience of eating this dish. I don't like watermelon. I'm not into red peppers. And in my dessert? Hmm. Hmm I say. This was served with THE coolest utensil I've ever used as well - a small, long-handled spoon that doubled as a straw. I kid you not. I tried the tomato/watermelon slushy thing first. Freaking FANtastic. These two flavors are the perfect marriage. The acidity of the tomato keeps the sweet watermelon in check, and the icy goodness made this so refreshing. Then, with a few bites of the red pepper ice cream, I was in texture and flavor heaven. I was shocked at how good this was - and the whole table agreed. We loved every bite.

Course Seven:

Raspberry with aged vinegar and micro-mint
* One beautiful raspberry was served on a tiny spoon, bursting with uber-strong aged balsalmic vinegar. Talk about a one-two flavor punch - so intense! I loved it, others did not - it's not a taste sensation for everyone, but it really worked for me.

Course Eight:

Blackberries and Corn Polenta with a Corn Tortilla Ice Cream
* One of my favorite all-time desserts; I've had this one before and would finish every meal with this flavor combo if I could. The corn ice cream is one of the most delicious things you'll ever taste, and with the crunchy sweet polenta and juicy blackberries, it's what a dessert should be; an array of textures, a bit of velvety ice cream, fabulously fresh fruit, and a balance of sweetness and savory.

Paired with a Loire Valley fortified Muscat - sweet, but with an intense acidity, so it's the kind of dessert wine I can really fall in love with.

Course Nine:

Chocolate Mousse, Horchata Ice Cream, Avocado-Banana puree
* Yes, folks, avocado and chocolate should be paired a-plenty - a decadent chocolate mousse is made less intensified by the horchata ice cream and milky-tasty puree. This is top-shelf, ultra-luscious chocolate, and although I couldn't finish it after the hardcore spoiling session we enjoyed, it provided the perfect fond finish. Proof that Adrian is still at the top of his game.

Parting Gifts:

Chocolate Lollipops - Pictured above, with the Providence logo - so cute and melty-fab!
Chocolate Peanut Butter Cups - Eat your heart out Reese's - woah god are these rich.
Lychee Gelee - Little squares of sugary goodness.
Chocolate Nut Ball - Tasted like a little toffee nut chocolate gem - great texture.
Vanilla Caramels - While Adrian's best gift is ice creaming creation, caramels are right behind.
Black Olive Caramels - As a caramel expert, I declare this an absolute home run - love them so much!
The damage for one beer, one 'rita, two salads, two entrees, and one side of corn was $60, including tax and tip. Yup, you're right - more than it ought to be.

Yee gawds, I think that covers it!
I didn't sleep a wink the night following this feast - so many flavors and wines to digest, my body was in a whirlwind. A really happy, roller-coaster type toss around. I am so incredibly lucky to experience such a feast. And, because Val's lovely parents insisted on pairing, I can't tell you what the finally tally was - my guess is, for the five of us, it was about $800. Which is a dinner for two at Urasawa, so I call it a bargain :)

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Malo - As Bad As It Wants to Be

Picture courtesy of

4326 Sunset Blvd.
Silverlake, CA
8.9.06 - Wednesday, 7:30 PM
Moi + Paul E.

I like Malo despite it's many flaws. He's rather like the super good friend you have that's always flubbing meet-up times and inserting foot-in-mouth, but you see his goodness, so all is forgiven. Actually, wait, no - Malo is like that friend that screws up on a regular basis but looks adorable during every last blunder, so what the heck. The love goes on.

It's the interior and vibe that makes me gaga. I love that there's a huge adjacent bar, separate from the dining area, and a large outdoor patio. All my moods are covered. And inside, there's dark gothic wall paper, sconce lighting, and a gorgeous crimson glow. Me likee. This is saying a great deal, I must duly note, as I don't go for scenester LA hideaways - I like my favs to have good food, first and foremost. Malo - well, like I said. I forgive.

My darling Paul and I met up last night at Mr. Malo for good 'ritas and a bit of noshing. He had never been, so I hit him hard with honest opinions. We agreed on all sides. I'll say one thing about this place - I've been multiple times now, and they are quite consistent. Good and malo.

Service is always somewhat polite but oh-so-spotty; our waitress disappeared for eons at one point (when we needed the check - grrr), but, you know, I've had worse. And the food is really hit/miss. Stick to the basics and you'll likely do just fine. I am never impressed with their specials. Except the gargantuan Mexican corn cob I had once. Those were good times.

If it's the real-deal tequila you're looking for, Malo's got it in spades. Kudos for that. And while their 'ritas aren't quite as good as El Carmen's, they certainly satisfy on a boilerplate day. See why I'm so forgiving?

Now for last night's rundown:


I had their basic margarita, with salt, on zee rocks. Thumbs way up.

Paul stuck to Pacifico. Ain't nothin' wrong with that.


Habanero and Cream
* Malo gets a lot of crap for charging people for salsas, but I don't actually mind - they're all homemade, along with the chips, and really quite tasty. This is my favorite, but it's got serious kick - you're going to feel the burn for quite awhile. To that I say, yes, please.


Green Salad
* A handful of greens dressed up with tomatoes, carrots, onions, and the house dressing
Um, ewww. We both got this, as a little healthy rabbit food, and while none of us voiced the obvious, neither of us got past about two bites. Not good. Bad dressing, bland as all get out. Blech.


Eggplant and Potato Tacos
* A tiny bit of eggplant and a dollop of potato wrapped in a corn tortilla and fried. Served with guacamole and sour cream.
I always forget that the "corn tortilla" tacos are served taquito style, which makes me pissy. I didn't want fried goods, but so be it. My fault for having the memory of a goldfish.
These are OK. Not a lot of flavor, and if there was eggplant in there, not much died for my tacos.

Grilled Chicken Flour Tortilla Tacos
* Grilled chicken strips, tomatoes, lettuce, cheese, salsa, on flour tortillas
I can't say these are a home run, but they're solid. Nothing scary or offensive. Goes good with beer.


Mexican Corn
* A small ear of corn, cut in half, grilled, and dosed with butter and a bit of spice
Good. Nuff said.

The damage for one beer, one 'rita, two salads, two entrees, and one side of corn was $60, including tax and tip. Yup, you're right - more than it ought to be.


Ambiance - B+
Service - C-
Food (Taste) - C
Food (Presentation) - D
Wine/Drinks - B
Value - C
Vibe/Energy/Scene - A-
Overall Experience - C+

Final word - It's just one of those places I can't resist. I'll be back, see - it's not so Malo.

Signature Dishes - Chef Ron Suhanosky's Bolognese

Picture from

I love surfing around the web, falling upon food creations I can almost taste across the virtual miles. So arrives a dish so rich and meaty, I think I gained weight just gazing at its picture. Today's signature dish comes from Chef Ron Suhanosky from the Nantucket restaurant Sfoglia Trattoria. It's a traditional Bolognese, and from the looks of it, this dish has a black belt in some butt-kicking martial art. Oh. Yes. This looks good. And I'm not even much of a meat eater, but my philosophy on the matter - if you've going to go Italian, baby, don't do it half-ass.

Chef Suhanosky isn't afraid of being hearty. His recipe for this rustic dish includes a full 5 pounds of meat (fear not, it's not single-serve ;) ), including a pound of chicken liver. Toss in the addition of 5 cloves of garlic (one for each pound!) and a cup of heavy cream, and by god, you have yourself a meal.

I've never been to Nantucket. Now I have a reason to.

Read more of the Kitty.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Little Toxic Nuggets - Microwave Popcorn and Cancer

It's one of the most tempting snacks on the planet - microwave popcorn. Easy as pie, salty as all get out, and dripping with fake buttery goodness. I have succumbed a million times over - and here I thought it was healthier than popping in oil. But no. Unhand that bag and step away from the microwave.

There's cold hard proof now that microwave popcorn causes cancer. How common and probable this outcome is hasn't yet be determined, but really, do you need any other data? There's two culprits - 1) the lining of the bag itself and 2) the fake butter. This is so serious, in fact, that over 130 workers in a factory that makes microwave popcorn in Missouri came down with lung disease, asthma, or bronchitis, due to exposure to these chemicals. I don't need any other proof.

Look, it's true that the chances of developing cancer from microwave popcorn is quite low. But it's obviously a very real concern for workers stuck breathing this crap in all day every day. So help me boycott the food just on principle - let's send a message that no matter how tasty and convenient a snack food is, it's not worth putting hard working folks in danger. Sheesh. The fact that the FDA let's this go down is damn disgusting.

My solution? Hot air poppin'. I do it weekly. Crazy healthy, simple as can be, cheap, and so good! A little salt, a little Parmesan, and a little butter spray - bliss. Way better than cancer.

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

I Saw It On the TV - Big Brother Slop

I watch Big Brother All Stars as if my life depended on it. Shut-up, it kinda does. Sorta. I get paid a wee little bit each week to blog about this best reality show ever ever, and as such, I feel it's a bit of the life blood. I'm addicted. And it's damn sad the things that are happening to my psyche. I've watched the show on and off for almost all 7 seasons, and the season 2 winner, Dr. Will, was a villain in my home. Evil bastard that he is, he ended up winning, and I was mortified. How could bad behavior be rewarded?
Will's back this year in the All Star competition, and I am hopelessly smitten. WHAT'S HAPPENED TO ME? I can see now that he's a genius for understanding he's playing a game, and nothing more - and as such, he just plays the hell out of everyone. I can admire that. Plus, he's hot. So, now I'm gaga for the bad ass. Oh, what a surprise.

What I'm NOT gaga for is the new "Big Brother Slop" addition. It used to be that those who lost food and luxury competitions got stuck eating PB&J sandwiches for the week. This year, they're not so lucky. They were granted buckets full of the so-called "slop", and apparently, this is nasty shit. I needed to know - what the heck is in that stuff?

Thank you TV Week Insider - I can now rest easy. It's not so bad, apparently - just a commercially available goo with oodles of fiber and protein. Healthy, even, it just apparently doesn't taste so hot. In case it's bothering you as much as it bothered me, slop has the following ingredients:

Natural oats, proprietary blend of whey protein concentrate, soy protein isolate, wheat protein isolate, milk protein isolate, natural and artificial flavors, vitamins and minerals (vitamin A palmitate, thiamine mononitrate, riboflavin, pyridoxine hydrochloride, cyanocobalamin, vitamin D3, alpha tocopherol, niacin, biotin, pantothenic acid, calcium carbonate, magnesium oxide, zinc oxide, copper gluconate, manganese sulfate, ferrous sulfate, folic acid, potassium iodide), cellulose gum, salt and acesulfame potassium.

I think I had worse stuff for dinner last night.

Monday, August 07, 2006

You Should Make This - Poached Eggs With Cilantro Sauce

I've done a lot of cooking in my day, but I have never ever poached an egg. Haven't even thought to try, because until last night, I was still clinging to the childhood memory that I hated egg yolks. Deeee-spised. Yucky, runny, chalky, nasty yellow goo. I eat 'em scrambled and in omelets, but that's different, yo. Every now and again, however, I get ca-ray-zee, and last night was one example. I was all "I'm gonna poach an egg. No, wait, I'll poach TWO of 'em." But I needed a recipe or else I'd lose my cool.

Cue the beloved Gourmet Magazine. I dug out an old issue and found just what I was looking for - Poached Eggs With Cilantro Sauce. Below is the recipe, with my step by step details - I have to mix it up. You should know that by now.

1 teaspoon distilled white vinegar

You're dropping this into a 12 inch skillet with about 1 1/2 inches of water. Get that a-simmerin'.

2 lb tomatoes, coarsely chopped
2 large garlic cloves, coarsely chopped
1 small fresh green serrano chile, coarsely chopped
1 teaspoon salt, or to taste
1/2 teaspoon sugar, or to taste
1 cup water

Mmm k now, get all this tossed together, then blend it together and make a puree. Now, Gourmet will have you push this through a sieve and discard the solids. Poppycock! If you like a salsa-consistency, keep those solids - I wish I had. And at the very least, use it on another dish - this is good stuff.

1/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon olive oil

Use the 1/4 cup in a skillet, and get it nice and hot (but no smokies). Now, add the puree - careful, it will splatter and fizz.

1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro plus additional for sprinkling

Throw in the cilantro and mix with your 'mater sauce.

8 (1/2-inch-thick) slices of baguette

Brush these puppies with olive oil, season, and place them in the center of your over. Give them about 10 mins to brown, but watch that they don't burn.
By the way, I grabbed a seeded sourdough baguette to give it more punch. Good call, go me.

8 large eggs

Gently place the eggs in a cup, then transfer them to your simmering water/vinegar combo. They will take about 4-5 minutes to cook up - yolks will be runny, but the whites should be pretty solid. Transfer them, two at a time, to a soup bowl when ready.

Your tomato goodness will need about 10 minutes to thicken up (but remember, it IS soup, so it won't be very thick). Pour a nice dose over your eggs, and garnish with the toasted baguette slices. Quite yummy. Yes, even the yolks :)

Sunday, August 06, 2006

You Should Make This - Cucumber, Tomato, and Pineapple Salad

I made a Cucumber, Tomato, and Pineapple salad. With a surprise or two up my little dressing-making sleeve.

Oh, those deceiving appearances. This little gem looks innocent, doesn't she. Hmph. Don't believe a bite of it - she's a beast.

I was in the mood for cool, refreshing summer salad goodness, with a sweetness and a super-spicy punch. I got what I wanted - boy howdy.

Here's the story -

1/2 sliced cucumber
1 large chopped-up tomato
A handful of chopped cilantro
A smidgen of chopped mint
1/2 pineapple, cut into 1/2 inch cubes

Right then, that's simple enough. Now let's make things interesting.

1 garlic clove
1/4 teaspoon salt

Mince that together and make yourself a paste. Well done.

Juice of 1 lime
1 Tablespoon vegetable oil
1 serrano chili, finely chopped (seeds included)
Dash of sugar
2 teaspoons oyster sauce (oh yes she did!)

Whisk of the above ingredients together with your garlic paste, adding salt/sugar to taste.
Then toss the dressing with the yummy concoction you made earlier - and wahlah - a hella spicy yet delightfully refreshing salad is allllll yours. She's packs a serious punch, so but the sweetness of the pineapple makes everything a-ok. Loved it! She shoots, she scores!

Make It a Double - Acid Bomb

How is it that every time most of us hit a bar, and the bartender's giving you the "hurry up and order" vibe, we all turn into blubbering idiots? There are one million drink concoctions out there, and when put on the spot, most of us lose the ability to recall anything other than a cosmo and a screwdriver. Sad! So sad! Well, next time you're at a loss, go for the gold and order something different - I vote for an Acid Bomb.

Your first instinct is probably all about ordering a beer, right? Statistics say over 50% of us stick to brewskis when drinking one of our 4.5 alcoholic beverages per week. Fine then, never fear, the Acid Bomb has you covered. And if you love a slice of lime-citrusy goodness in your happy hops, double score - the Bomb will be your new best friend.

Acid Bomb
2 - 3 oz Bacardi Limon rum
1 bottle Corona Extra lager
1 slice lemon

Now, traditional frat-boy logic would have you line a shot glass with salt, pour in the Bacardi Limon rum, then chug the lime-spritzed beer and have your best buddy shake your head violently for a few seconds.
Oh, how very civilized.

I have a different methodology. Put your lemon (or lime) slice in the Corona, as is par for the course. Line a marghertia glass with salt, and pour in the Bacardi Limon. Then add your citrus-enhanced Corona, and sip away. It's good. And it will give you a lovely lime-scented buzz. No head-shaking required.

Saturday, August 05, 2006

The Firestorm that is Anthony Bourdain

picture courtesy of

The first time I saw Anthony Bourdain on TV, something like six years ago, I was just beginning my journey to become a foodie. His show, "No Reservations", was on, and I saw the arrogant gray-haired chef sauntering down a Vietnam road, boasting about his adventures. I immediately absolutely loathed his image. He was cocksure, snobbish, holier-than-thou -- ack, I just couldn't stomach him.

Well, all that is true. Anthony Bourdain has an enormously distinguished career as a chef, writer, and truth-teller. That's really the heart of what makes him special, and what has villainized him to no end. In his books, and, to a lesser extent, on his television shows, he dares to truly express what happens in the confines of a kitchen, what goes down in the food worlds across the globe, and how chef's really spend their time and money. It seems all those traits that I first took note of are the very tickets to his success.

I haven't been won over entirely - don't think I'm going soft on this cocky bastard. But I cannot deny that the man can truly write, and from the looks of it, he's a master chef as well. What has moved me recently, however, is his plight in Beirut. He went to Lebanon before the fighting broke out to film a city on the rise - to show the ways in which this culture was bouncing back, and embracing a culinary adventurous spirit. But as his television crew began to illustrate Beirut's passion and flair, the bombs starting raining in. As he says, he "watched the city die." He posted a poignant and power article on about this heart-breaking journey, and it's amazing. He is amazing. There, I said it. Would I want to spend a day with him trying to maneuver around his cocky attitude and get at the real Anthony Bourdain? Not exactly. But respect where respect is due - he's an adventurer, and a truth-seeker, and no matter what, that's a damn noble way to spend your life.

Friday, August 04, 2006

Ode to Garlic

I freaking love garlic. I'm one of those peeps who can peel back a raw clove and pop-it like candy. I prefer the roasted variety, spread in a huge chunks across toasted, olive oil drenched bread, but seriously, is there a bad way to consume garlic?

*crickets chirping*

See, I thought not.

I don't remember the exact moment I realized how glorious this ingredient really was, but I do recall turning my nose up in my younger years. How. Dare I. It is a grown-up taste, however - a little bit sweet, a whole lot pungent - it's as if the universe is saving something for our older age, a delightful taste worth waiting for.

Perhaps my first real experience that taught me garlic should be celebrated occurred at the infamous Stinking Rose restaurant in Beverly Hills. This is not a foodie mecca, and I really didn't adore my dishes, but the way they showcased this often neglected gem made me gleeful. It was the first time I had straight-up roasted garlic, and I flipped over the flavor. So I'm grateful for the epiphany, I just haven't returned.

There's a huge garlic patch near Gilroy, California that I pass on the road to San Francisco. It's a borderline repulsive smell - I think if I wasn't aware that garlic was responsible, it would make me gag (no, I'm not a vampire). But there's something so regal and perfect about that damn veggie, I must pay homage. Every time I roll on through, the windows are down, deep breaths are coming in waves, and I'm drooling over thoughts of a garlicky feast.

Speaking of which, this recipe for Baked Garlic with Roquefort and Rosemary looks kick ass. Let's make some tonight, stay in with some wine, and watch a film, shall we? Great. See you at 8.

Thursday, August 03, 2006

Let's Kill the Freedom Fry

Is this good news or bad news?

According to this story in the Washington Times, Capitol hill has finally reversed their RIDICULOUS flubbing of France by renaming those glorious fried tator strips their rightful French name. Yes, they've STILL been calling them Freedom Fries, for all of THREE years now. I'm absolutely ashamed this was even a trend for three minutes, let alone three years. And boy, did we put it to France - let's see if they don't back every preemptive war we initiative from now on, eh? Lest we start renaming all things French. We won't stop at potatoes, if forced - we're that kind of crazy country.

Well, at least we can admit a mistake, quietly, and reverse the madness. I have a feeling most folks ordering up their favorite fried carb haven't been using the freedom moniker - I'm going to imagine it thusly so as to not lose faith in humankind all together. I want this to just be a silly blip on the media front where a very few went quite nutso and the rest of us just sat back and shrugged. My fellow country folk eat French Fries, and always have.

Right now, I'm proud to be American. And I'm hungry as hell for some salty starchy French goodness.

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Strange Fruit Archives - Singapore Semolina Ring

A wise friend of mine once said, "People who order ala carte and don't order dessert - I just don't get it!"
He's also a pastry chef. But I can't argue with cold-hard logic. Dessert is worth living for, and I'm in the adventurous camp. I like a little flair. I like an unexpected savory kick. I think most desserts should have fruit (and chocolate, when I'm feeling moody, but that one's flexible.) I'm a sucker for swanky, eye-popping presentation, and yes, with this course especially, less is more.

A little gem on recently caught my eye. Jonathan Thomas, pastry chef at The Striped Bass in Philadelphia, created this lovely offering - something he calls a Semolina Ring with Singapore Sauce and Cookie Angel Hair. I'm sorry, come again? Let's just call it crazy and imagine what it might taste like.

First things first - the semolina ring. When I hear the ingredient semolina, I instantly think of LA's Doughboys restaurant, as they feature a Semolina Waffle with Strawberries and Marscapone on their breakfast menu. It's damn good. So I have high hopes for this ring-action. It's got a little lemon zest, orange zest, and the other usual suspects. On top of that goes the Cookie Angel Hair, which is basically just butter, sugar, and shredded phyllo dough. OK, ain't nothin' wrong with that. Finally, the mysterious Singapore Sauce - she's got honey, cinnamon, passionfruit juice, lemon juice and (here's the kicker) cognac. Not enough cognac, but I could fix that. Land sakes, this sounds good. Anybody want to go to Philadelphia with me? I'm quite certain I could cook this myself, but there's no way in god's green earth I could make it look this lovely. Besides that, Chef Morimoto has his luscious flagship restaurant in the city of brotherly love, called (shockingly) Morimoto - a hotspot I've never hit but have dreamt of for ages. So what do you say - a little sushi, a lotta sake, and some Singapore throwdown? I'll start packing.

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

uWink - Eateries Go Electronic

In the "as gimmicky as it gets" department, the unsuspecting foodies of Los Angeles have been hit with a restaurant poised to help us entered the digital eating age. uWink Bistro, located in the shopping Promenade of Woodland Hills, is a self-proclaimed "food and fun" cafe featuring touch screens at each table where patrons order up their food. Don't worry, the dishes are still delivered by actual people, you just don't have to talk to them. Lest you think these screens just serve to act as an interactive menu, there's much more electronic fun to be had at uWink. Once you punch in your order, let the games begin - quite literally. This entertainment center includes games, table-to-table tournaments, edutainment, movie trailers, and "selected internet fun." Which says to me you can't exactly surf the web, but you can go where uWink says it's OK to go. Or rather, the sponsors who have paid top-dollar to reach uWink's discerning diners.

It might work. Might. Something tells me, however, that the focus here will not be on food, but on keeping patrons occupied with screen-touches and silly games. uWInk as a company touts itself as a "digital entraining" venture, founded by Nolan Bushnell - the man also responsible for Atari and Chuck E. Cheese. Food, I'm afraid, is going to be woefully secondary. The menu is ridiculously boring and even more confused - there's a lot of so-called "Asian" dishes, like lettuce wraps and noodles, as well as exciting dishes like a "classic turkey" sandwich and "grilled salmon". Oh, joy. The interesting part here will be whether or not their demographic embraces yet another chance to lose themselves in non-personal computer-based entertainment. If I decide to play in an online tournament with Person A sitting two tables down, but never say hello, what does that say about our society? Oh, but wait - if Person A is an uber-hot single male, and there's a chat functionality - well now, I'm intrigued.

Hey, props to uWink, regardless, for being unique. There certainly is potential here, but it would make me volumes more excited to read they were blowing up fabulous and experimental eats in the kitchen, too. I'm not going to be as engaged to play hours of in-house games while noshing on a lame, tasteless turkey san. Put a little caviar, lotus root, or black truffles in the mix, and you just might have a winner.

Feasting on Bad TV - Alton Brown's New Show

This is gonna hurt.

Alton Brown's new show Feasting on Asphalt is a woeful, over-used, boring as water display. Wait, no, it's far worse than a show on water - Alton's done that via Good Eats, and I was riveted. On the latter, Alton's crazy antics and mad-scientist spoofs are entertaining because he's constrained to his own (studio) kitchen, and it feels like you're in the house of a favorite home-economics teacher. He had a two-part series on the structure, history, and formation of water, and you just couldn't look away. With Feasting on Asphalt, well, I was waiting for the credits from word one.

I wanted to love it. Of course I did. Alton is a hero of sorts - an unlikely food star who remains the only shining light on Iron Chef America. His jokes are bad, he's awkward and goofy, and this is why we love him. He's one of us, only, like, way smarter. But on Asphalt, the premise is all worn-out. He's jetting his way across this great nation with just a motorcycle, a helmet, and an appetite. Are you yawning yet? Everyone's got a travel/food show. Anthony Bourdain, I blame you.

In the premiere episode of Asphalt, Alton went to the south for some soul food. It felt unscripted (a good thing) but without any real point (a bad thing). His gimmicks and silliness just don't work in the construct of a real-word interview with joe-schmo fry cook. There was very little educating and absolutely no entertaining. The antithesis of Good Eats, if you will.

Now, there is a light of sorts - I absolutely loathed Good Eats the first time I saw it. It struck me as kindergarten cooking class - it took me a while to "get" Alton. So maybe I'm wrong about Asphalt - perhaps it is an absolute gem, and it just has to grow on me as well. Tell me that's true. MAKE IT SO. I want to have faith in food TV again. I really, really do.