Thursday, November 8, 2007

Fresh and Easy is Icky and I am Back from the Dead

We drive past the Fresh and Easy every morning and have been waiting eagerly for it to open. We have no kitchen due to a remodel gone horribly awry and we have lived for months on prepared foods and while we appreciate the quality we are sick to death of Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods and were looking forward to some good alternatives at the new Tesco venture. We arrived at about 6 and the store was jammed. It was obvious that a lot of the prepared foods had been sold out but what was there, to me looked tragically unappetizing. There were pints of coleslaw swimming in thin gray liquid and bags of brownish salad greens. We tasted a salty, rather acrid tortilla soup. I circled the store three times trying to find one acceptable item to feed my husband. I ended up with some lackluster chicken fajitas. These are prepared foods of the ilk that one finds at Vons and bear no comparison to what is offered at T.J.’s or Whole Foods. There are frozen store brand dinners in the freezer and perhaps it was just the incredibly unattractive packaging and graphics but I truly would rather eat a Lean Cuisine. There was one aisle of meat and chicken and perhaps two different fish choices, all heavily packaged and far less interesting than even the scant butcher items at Trader Joe’s. The produce was all packaged and none looked farm fresh. The store carries a lot of non-Tesco products but mainly really junky brands of cookies and cereals and other items I would never buy. The store will probably do well as a smaller version of the Albertson’s it replaced. The quality is comparable to a big chain grocery and will never replace Trader Joe’s, Whole Foods and farmer’s markets as our major source of foodstuffs.
I also found the store stark and ugly with a crummy warehouse ambience. I’m not sure either whether I’ll ever be able to get into the groove of scanning and bagging my own groceries.

Monday, July 2, 2007

Beverage Dept. at Golden Farms

Golden Farms, straddling Burbank and Glendale

I have long been tempted based, on the sheer size to stop at Golden Farms and found myself on San Fernando Road fortuitously and stopped by last week. It is really huge and funky but a veritable treasure trove if you can find a shopping cart with four working wheels. There’s a great assortment of fresh locally made baked goods, lots of interesting frozen items and a carryout section where I ordered two carry-out sandwiches, chicken and beef. They came on mediocre but freshly heated french bread with pickle and a variety of seasonings and fresh kabob meat and were absolutely delicious. If this were on a fresh baguette, it would be my new favorite sandwich but even on the somewhat squishy extant roll, it is a contender. There was a huge jar of dehydrated shallots, something I’d never seen before. It was explained that they are rehydrated and mixed with either lebni or yogurt. I asked the name of the dish and was told it’s called "shallots and yogurt" and lo and behold, that’s how it was labeled at the service deli. The deli itself (and the meat and fish counters too) was kind of dicey and there was something for sale which obviously showcased canned peas. Nevertheless, the shallots and yogurt was a fresh summer revelation on the store brand and un-greasy pita chips, as was the eggplant and pepper salad I scored. The produce department was heavy on good looking and inexpensive herbs and enormous barrels of beautiful freshly roasted nuts certainly beckoned too.

Golden Farms
6501 San Fernando Road
Glendale 91201

Grace-Less, but in Groovy Company

While we have been extraordinarily lucky in our marriage, our anniversary dinners the past two years have been less successful. We both love Providence but last year, the wine pairing was a bit ill advised. I am a light weight and poured most of mine of into my husband’s glass which resulted for him becoming quite inebriated (only the second time I have seen him so in nearly 20 years) and he was returned home curled in the fetal position in the back seat of my car, so this year we decided on Grace, which we haven’t frequented a while but both liked very much in the past.
I have often experienced a decline in a restaurant when the owner branches out and opens a second shop, as has Grace owner Neal Fraser with BLD. The only local chef I can think who seems immune from this is Wolfgang Puck but I think Susan and Mary Sue and Joachim despite their dynasties, have ever really done anything as good as the original City or Patina. I had high hopes though for Neal Fraser and Grace, as it is such a cozy spot and I loved the take out pastry, which continued the magic to the next morning.
It is still a handsome space and filled on a Saturday night. I browsed the large selection of starters and designed a tasting menu myself of five appetizers I thought we would both enjoy and told the waiter to have the kitchen serve them in the order the chef saw fit. Instead of rewarding my enthusiasm for diving into their menu with such bravado, the waited seemed flummoxed and had to come back to the table again, just to make sure he got it all straight.
We were first presented with a trio of fish: tuna tartare with ponzu, snapper with yuzu gelee and North Sea Eel with hijiki and hot mustard. It was quite dainty at $23.00 but well contrasted and flavorful.
Next, we were served tempura fried squash blossoms. The version I had at Mozza was one of the single best restaurant dishes I have eaten this year and the version of I had at Grace, was the absolute single worst. It tasted like the gloppy tempura from a mix and was limp and oil sodden, not fried at a high enough temperature and no one asked why most of the $17 item was virtually uneaten on the plate.
The house cured wild king salmon and smoked brook trout showed off high quality ingredients but the presentation was a tad sloppy and while I wouldn’t call it an unsuccessful dish, we were still waiting to be wowed.
Fresh sardines are one of my favorite foods and I was thrilled to see sauteed Monterey Bay Sardines with artichokes on the menu. This, simple and satisfying was one of the better realized dishes, but again, the plating consistently seemed hurried and less spot on than previous visits.
Our final dish was organic carrot risotto which tasted delicious and deep but was garnished by one another of those utterly embarrassing fried squash blossoms.
Dinner was a plate of yawn inducing cookies which made me realize what a brilliant baker Hayden Ramsey is at humble Square One, so far to the east and so much more wallet friendly. Oh, and the breakfast pastry I was so looking forward to? Only available now from BLD.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Queasy Pollo Campero Protein Fix

Found myself starving before opening the concessions stand for our theatre group in Hollywood and knew that if I didn't get some dead flesh in me I was liable to o.d. on chocolate chip cookies so I picked up a two piece (leg and thigh) meal which came with a side of coleslaw so vile I will not speak of it. I added a side of (soppy but flavorful in that greaseball way) fried bananas. Yes. I am an asshole to order fried bananas on a chocolate cookie avoidance mission. The buzz on Campero has so died down, I forgot it was a fried, rather than grilled (ala Pollo Loco) product. I haven't eaten KFC in many moons but in the realm of taste and sensory memory this gnarly, gristly, grease soaked stuff was reminiscent of the Colonel, only with more chili powder and salt. And my 2 pieces of chicken, green regurgitation that will be not be named, gushy bananas and a beverage cost over 9 bucks.

The Lives I've Spent at Porto's

I am one of the concessions girls for the Silverlake Children's Theatre Group and because were running a show called, Havana, Porto's seemed a logical choice. I hadn't been to the Glendale location since the expansion and now it is truly city sized. I noticed that they even have their own food manufacturing plant as the white chocolate slabs used to add text to a cake, were labelled a Porto's product. It takes a long time to get through to Portos via phone but when I did my order was taken efficiently. We had 6 individual orders over two weekends. The parking was difficult most times. From checking in to receiving pre-ordered products look less than a half hour on the best day and nearly two hours on the worst. Once my order was still not ready, even when I arrived after the scheduled time. Twice my order was not wrapped according to my (quirky albeit clearly delineated) specifications. Considering the amazing volume of business I guess the operation is surprisingly efficient and that staff are pleasant natured.

We ordered feta and tomato and medio noche sandwiches. The feta sandwiches were surprisingly good but the Porto's bread has a dry quality and doesn't blow me away. We also ordered beef, cheese and chorizo empanadas. The beef were quite popular but the word of mouth on the chorizo wasn't good. This is not food I would drive out of my way for but it is inexpensive and good to order in high volume for events and occasions . During my wait I saw many elaborate cakes. These are reasonably priced attractive but commercially produced bake goods and nothing from the bakery I've tried has been even marginally delicious. I bought a showy fruit tart as a birthday surprise and while it had a pornographic presence, the custard tasted like a canned product and the fruit was so unctuous with glaze it passed out of the realm of fresh and into something that should float in jello.

Portos in a phenomena and such a pulsing center of action and energy I can't really fault it but there isn't a food or bakery treat that really calls to me, it's all seems rather work-a-day. I have yet to try the Burbank location. I am told the crowds are far smaller but they have less of a production area and less flexibility with regard to certain food and bakery orders than Glendale.

Glendale Location

315 North Brand Blvd.Glendale, CA 91203 tel. (818) 956-5996

(818) 956-069
Burbank Location

3614 W Magnolia Blvd.Burbank, CA 91505 (818) 846-9100

Raul's Highland Park-Muy Amable! Tacos & Wi Fi

Obscenely fat little tacos of delicious chicken and beef that was thoughtfully seasoned and complicated. Also, really satisfying is an incredibly earthy sinewy rich and funky birria. Enchiladas seem often available as a special and I have a hankering to try them next. Rightous owners.


4017 N. Figueroa


Closed Thursdays

Monday, June 11, 2007

New at the Atwater Farmers Market

Because I'm such an early bird I usually do the Hollywood Market but Atwater, which starts at ten, is really great because the parking is so easy and the selection gets better every week.

I was thrilled to see the South Central Farmers--who believe in growing their vegetables BIG and selling them CHEAP and nothing is ever short of delicious--have a booth now with wonderful greens and radishes. Delmy, the famous Pupusa maker at Hollywood has sent her absolutely adorable daughter to spin off a satellite in Atwater. There was no line this week but I predict that shortly to change.

I have never tried the locally roasted coffee sold at Atwater because I am turned off that samples are served with non-dairy creamer. Is it worth tasting anyway?

Friday, May 25, 2007

I am not dead and I Like Cardone's Deli

We ordered delivery from Cardone’s for the office today and we certainly ate well. Phone service was really pleasant and although it took a while to arrive, everything was well packed and the panini were warm. We ordered a Wartime Five Families Sandwich ($8.25) which was reported to be of excellent quality, a meatball sandwich ($6.99) which surprisingly was judged less tasty and well constructed than the Palermo’s model and a cheese and tomato ($6.75) and Portobello panini, ($7.25) both of which I would have again. I’m not crazy about pasta salad in general nor about Cardone’s in particular but the potato salad is excellent and at $2.95 a lb. I’ll sneak it in to parties this summer.

We also got half a dozen freshly made and delicious (no citron! Yeah!) cannoli. The menu is limited and unless one is a big cheese and/or pork eater, there aren’t a lot of choices but even with the teensy selection, Cardone’s is certainly a contender for being our very favorite delivery resource in the neighborhood.

Cardone’s Italian Deli
3206 W. Sunset Blvd. (at Descanso)
Los Angeles 90029
M/W-F 11 a.m. to 8 p.m.
S&S 11 a.m to 6 p.m.
Closed Tuesday
Free Delivery

Saturday, April 21, 2007

Lunch Box Love Offerings from Grandma

Mystery Object

Something carefully wrapped in a napkin which was then inserted into a sandwich baggie.

Mystery Object Revealed

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Yai at the Hollymont Plaza

In that they are close to my place of employment, I like the food and we have known the folks forever, my Thai eating is largely confined to Suriyo and Sompun on Santa Monica Blvd. Because the children’s theater group, after having been rejected my people, has found a new home in the bosom of the Lutherans, I find myself often with time to kill near the Hollymont shopping center, the one graced by Jon’s Market, Fatburger and that store where all the moms rush to pick up those emergency white shirts for school performances. When I was a kid my dad and I used to order Green River for a big green fountain from the Woolworth Five and Dime where the Rite Aid is now. I have not been brave enough to try the fish and chips place but I have made it into Yai twice now, once for dine in and once for carry out.
It’s an ugly restaurant with too much sort of mean spirited signage like "Cash Only" and the menu indicates that drinks ordered without ice will be charged double. Little not warm nor fuzzy touches like that were sort of a turn off, but there are a couple of really excellent, if not mind blowing dishes. I like the dry egg noodles with duck a lot. More adventurous diners may gravitate towards the wild boar on the menu, but while we are loosening our kosher standards a bit, this is just beyond the pale. The thing I liked the most though was a simple apple salad with lemon juice and chiles. Really refreshing. The chicken sates were nice but not as good as the ones at the Hollywood farmers market, and oddly served with diagonal slices of commercial white sandwich bread. I brought home a pornographic fried trout for himself and despite 20 minutes in traffic, it was crispy on the outside and truly moist and flavorful on the inside when it hit the table. The barbecued chicken was on the sweet side but not lacking in complex and slightly funky flavor.
The service when we dined in was quite slow and a bit confused. When I ordered carry out though, the order was prepared quickly, well packaged and complete. Overall, if you don’t need love with your food, this is really good take out resource with easy parking, which more and more effects my dining decisions.

Monday, April 16, 2007

At Long Last, Kellogg Ranch

Driving back from the Springs I spontaneously stopped at the Farm Store at Cal Poly Pomona after years of curiousity. The first thing on my mind was Dr. Bob’s ice cream. I was happy to see a pumpkin flavor I’d never seen before and the ultra illusive Brown Sugar Strawberry Sour Cream. There was a decent selection from beef and lamb raised there on the campus. Alas, I had no portable cooling device so my shopping, while extensive, was confined to non-perishable products.

There is some of the typical overpriced bullshit high end pretty food gourmet stuff but there is really an ample selection of some interesting jams and salsas made at the farm itself and even something called Pecan Coconut filling which might be a good brownie topping in the future. We also filled a jar with delicious local honey from an awesome looking vat.

I was under the impression that dairy products from the campus were sold here too but the milk was Broguiere's and the cheese selection was utterly undistinguished. There were some nice local baked goods and I purchased too some gorgeous citrus and broccoli grown there on the campus and a lovely box of local strawberries.

And how cool is it to return from a little vacation and not have to rush out to the supermarket?

Kellogg Ranch at Cal Poly Pomona

Chow Patty Saves us from Billy Reed's in Palm Springs

Thanks to my role model Chow Patty of Eating L.A. for making two swell Palm Springs suggestions and sparing me from Billy Reed’s.

The first was Tylers, an upscale and not cheap burger place. We waiting about 40 minutes for a table at peak lunch hour. If you order coleslaw, they throw it right on your table, as an appetizer, and it is far and away the best coleslaw I have ever had, fresh, crisp, not overdressed and redolent of celery seeds. Perfection. I had a kraut dog which suffered from a sort of acrid dog. I forgot to ask whether it was all beef but I ate corn and rice over Passover this year so the mighty have fallen. I might have forgiven the dog, were it not for the kraut which was not rinsed so it was overly briny and worse, sopped up the bun, causing it to disintegrate. The fries were fine and the kids burgers tasted really good. Did not try the potato salad or the chili but this is the kind of place that might excel in these two basic burger joint food groups. Will definitely return.

The Matchbox has fancy drinks and bar food but a nice slant on pizza, allowing you to chose your own type of crust, sauce and toppings. We ordered a simple chicken pesto creation and it was thin crusted, delicate and tasty. We also shared some sliders which were hit the right note between dainty and sloppy. I had an overpriced girlie cocktail, some citrusy thing, which mercifully wasn’t too sweet. The place is pretty, upstairs in the plaza and would definitely be a choice for a drink and snack in a pleasant place without huge ooze factor.

Our hotel had the worst continental breakfast and Farmer Bros. coffee so we didn’t even bother with it. Elmer’s is a nice, honest coffee shop. It would be more fun if it were kitschier or tiki or googie or something but it still wields some retro charm and good pancakes.

The Palm Springs Farmers market is pleasant. There was a good selection of nice produce and lots of good dried fruits. We bought a big batch of different flavored licorice which we overate on all weekend. There is not an huge choice of prepared foods and the lines were quite long so we partook of nothing, but the aromas were tempting and it’s a lovely place to stroll if you have enough self control to go easy on the licorice.

149 S. Indian Canyon

155 S. Palm Canyon

1030 E Palm Canyon

Farmers Market is Thursday evenings on Palm Canyon.

I will have a big meltdown if you don't take those leftover fries home.

So we did.

Lucky Boy-As real as it gets

This place is run with military precision although slightly more warmth. Food appears in seconds and I have never gotten anything different than exactly what I ordered. It is a homely restaurant with sort of a comforting Edward Hopper Zeitgeist. The burgers are big and sloppy, and definitely taste of charred meat. The fries and onion rings are as close to perfection as I’ve found. We ordered fries well done. The cross section of burger is an avocado burger with grilled onions and cheddar cheese. The three of us were unable to make a dent in the hearty portion and Grandma insisted that I take the leftovers home so my kids could have cold fries and rings in their lunch boxes on this first day back to school after a long vacation. I’ll count ketchup as a vegetable.
Lucky Boy Drive-in Restaurant
640 S Arroyo Pkwy Pasadena, CA 91105-3233

Friday, March 30, 2007

The Annual Spring Heart Break that is Chavez Ravine

It’s spring and we’re back at the Dodger Stadium, so hardcore that we attend pathetic freeway exhibition games although it gave us an opportunity to check out our new seats and the new fifteen buck (!) parking system. And man, it would be so easy to run some shuttle buses up from the Chinatown Gold Line station, but that’s another big ole Dodger chip on my weary shoulder, along with their chums at Union 76.

But every spring I return to the stadium with the hope that there is something edible to eat. Our new seats are near a South Street Philly Cheesesteak which we’d never tried and so I dropped 8 bucks for a miniscule sandwich and a fistful of potato chips. The dainty thing was nicely oniony and satisfying in that way that cold meatloaf is satisfying, if it is satisfying to you, of course. But may I be condemned to dine only from the salad bar at Burger Continental for the rest of this and infinite other lifetimes, if I do not religiously import food to Dodger Stadium for every single game. There is not one thing at the stadium that is anywhere near is delicious as any number of things which can be brought in. And don’t you forget it.

I may have a malt or an ice cream or one of those insipid frozen yogurts in the plastic batting helmet during the dog days of summer. I may even succumb to the $3.00 beverage they have the nerve they call coffee if the vicissitudes of being a professional carpool driving menopausal she-devil have born heavily on me. But, with perhaps the exception of a Dodger Dog (for luck, occasionally) and a Camacho’s taco, which I have never tried but feel obliged to eventually, as it is actually a local merchant and more importantly, local to our seats, I will not even fall victim to the garlic fries nor the rancid peanuts, however artfully they are tossed at me. Report on Camacho’s coming soon. Otherwise, brown baggin’.

The absolute best Dodger carry-in is banh mi. I am fussy and only really love the sandwiches at Baguette Express in San Gabriel and haven’t done a decent recent exploration of Chinatown, so this perfect of portable foods, hasn’t been on the menu as often as I’d like. Langer’s is a great option but their unusual hours require a bit of clever strategy. Phillipe’s also is a good carryout choice, heavy on the house mustard. Another favorite is a selection of sushi and stuff from either of the two great supermarkets in Little Tokyo. Remember, no canned drinks, only plastic bottles are allowed inside.

Bag o’ tacos from truck is always a good option too, although in the interest of personal hygiene, I would patronize a truck that’s rather dainty of hand and grease and make sure to have a ton of wipey things in my purse. However, even my new huge feedbag could not contain enough wipies were we to bring in barbecue, so that is verboten, likewise are hamburgers because they just get icky when they’re cold. Even Rover won’t eat a cold burger. In all but the most beer soaked of sections, Zankou is just too smelly.

Alas, stadiums all over the country purvey local food specialties. Piroshki and stuff. We have Dodger dogs, which, I’m sorry, is a sub sui generis hotdog. There. I said it. Dodger dogs suck. Grilled. Steamed. Beef. Even if you can find a little packet of sauerkraut they suck suck suck. Even though Skully gushes so much love into the radio spots. Bleech Dodger dogs I say Bleech!

Give me deli and Viet Namese sandwiches and tamales and real food from the best food city in the world as befits our beloved Dodgers. Do they really deserve Carl’s Jr.? And think about the Goldline shuttle, too, ok?

Monday, March 26, 2007

In the Market for a Market?

Rover and I hit the 99 Ranch Market yesterday where I stock up on good rice, cheap mushrooms, cheap peeled garlic, fresh noodles and tons of other fun stuff. I am intrigued by the fish tanks and it is cool to think about that kind of freshness and every single time I go there, and I go there a lot, I enter, determined to select a live fish and I am never able to do it. I’m good on picking out a dead fish. Really. You look for clear eyes. I bought an interesting long silvery fish yesterday called a Pacific Sierra, which had been deaded before my arrival. Sometimes English is a problem at the 99 and I misunderstood the fish man. I though he was asking me if I wanted it cleaned but apparently he thought I meant cut and took a hatchet to it, leaving me instead of a whole gutted fish, with some thick steaks. My intention had been to roast the whole fish stuffed with a bit of lemon and garlic and Chinese chieves (spelled like that usually). The steaks are a different challenge. Stay tuned.

So, I can eat a fish and we often order live fish in Chinese restaurants but our victim is selected for us. I am a wuss. I could not point my stubby finger at the live fish tanks. Just like my favorite character, Leslie Lapides, in Sophie’s Choice who could say fuck but could not do it. Although there is a tradition in Casamurphy dating back decades to torment dogs and family members by manipulating fish jaws so they lip synch Bobby Goldsboro songs or spout Becket or Joyce or endearments with a Turkish inflection. Popped roasted fish eyeballs are also a source of levity of the weekly piscean meal. We do find it curious that Leo and Spuds don’t eat fish.

Himself and I devour fish with relish. We both are mindful that they are gifts from God but they get to swim in water their whole lives. And they have to. We try to eat them mindfully and look for fins and scales.

I stopped today by Jon’s Market on Hollywood and Vermont to browse and select my weekly love offering of healthful snack foods for my beloved colleagues at the office. There was no produce, save a bunch of green bananas which I deemed office friendly. I picked up some Armenian string cheese with caraway seeds, dried apricots, and a couple varieties of cookies from local bakeries, all of which had really basic (and non-chemical) ingredients on the label. I would most rather buy produce at Gelson’s but it is dear. There is less, but often some, available suitable produce for office consumption at the Von’s on Hollywood Blvd. but there aren’t any baked goods worthy of purchasing. I bet sometimes too, you can pick up a produce bargain at Jon’s, today just wasn’t the day. Overall though Jon’s has much more modest selection than Super King but the prices are just about as friendly.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

3 recipes. One Vegan. One ac/dc. One Dead Animal

Warning Kravitz. I am going to rhapsodize shortly about the consumption of God’s dead creatures, which I try to do mindfully, but I do do. In my hopes that you may some day have your own friends you can find God with, my tribute to you was a red lentil, couscous vegan dal which I think was quite nice. I should have warned you Kravitz to add some heat to it because it was made to be palatable to our children and more particularly their parents, both of whom are big fat wusses when it comes to hot. Although I adore horseradish and wasabi. Himself does not, but has a taste for mustard hotter than you would suspect and I would prefer personally. Said dal was transported to Kravitz and Paul in a nifty little Tupperware type toolbox thingie I found which sort reminds me of the ark of the covenant…will keep it vegan kosher for all of us restless spirits.

So, I’ll tell about the dal first Kravitz and then you can log off. I began with some inspiration from Deborah Madison, and if I haven’t said it before, she is my cooking hero. The Westerberg of cuisine.
(Kravitz likes onions VERY WELL COOKED) See now you can forward this on to your friends who are happy to cook vegan for you. Got any? Oh, except ME I mean…So please forgive me the fucking dead bird.

I never would have occurred to me to mix lentils and couscous but it was way past dinner time and the dal was stilly super liquidy while it simmered away. I threw in some couscous just to absorb but it turned out to be a really nice combination which I’ll definitely experiment more with.

Lentil Couscous Dal
Canola Oil
2 medium onions
2 cups red lentils
Chile oil (I like La Yu)
Chopped garlic
ginger spread or chopped fresh ginger
2 cups couscous
1 can coconut milk

This is something you can riff on some weeknight. Left seasonings vague because this is quick cooking,. I am not a chef. Nope. Not me. So use these seasonings in whatever amount you prefer or better yet, substitute anything that strikes your fancy. The principle is to clear the onions in the oil and then add the lentils, chile oil, garlic and ginger and lightly brown. Add 6 cups of water and bring to a boil. Reduce to light simmer. Cover and simmer for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. Turn off heat and add couscous. Cover and let rest 5-10 minutes. Add the cream layer from the coconut milk. Garnish w/ cilantro.

Roasted French Beans
Found huge bags of snipped French beans of excellent quality at Costco. Or get one of the smaller bags at Trader Joe’s and nuke it right in the bag.

Green Beans
Butter or Olive Oil
Coarse Salt and Pepper
Grated Cheese (optional) (I used some dry jack)

Microwave beans however you usually do it but a tiny bit less done than usual. E-mail me if you need help with basic bean microwave. I slit the bag after cooking, add the oil and seasonings and optional cheese (enough to lightly coat) and shake it a bit. Throw them on a cookie sheet and broil for about 5 minutes.

Another Variation on the theme of Turkey Thighs
I bought some mole in a jar from Trader Joe’s knowing that Himself has never warmed to mole and that it is not a flavor I think my kids crave. I purchased a bottle of organic ketchup at TJ’s too. I never use anything but Heinz, which we were out of, but the kids will use anything in an emergency. Ditto, on Best Foods/Hellman’s mayo. Nothing else. May even be better than homemade! Since I had made good on the Heinz in the extravagant size at Costco, it occurred to me that the organic TJs stuff would be quite redundant, and I, in a blast of 1950s housewife fury, added it to the mole to sweeten the hot and the funky. It worked. I won’t tell you what measurements to use, but this is the gist:

Turkey Thighs
Chopped Garlic
Raisins-small handful
Soft dried pineapple-small handful
Roasted pumpkin seeds

Preheat to 350 and spray a big roasting pan with tons of cooking spray before adding the turkey, skin up. Do what you need to do, if anything, to get the mole to your liking. Leave out the ketchup entirely if you will. I don’t care. Mix everything until it’s the way you like it. Don’t go crazy on the dried fruit. It absorbs the sauce and you don’t want the turkey to dry out. Brush it on the turkey. Cover the pan with foil and bake 90 minutes. Let cool enough to remove meat from bones and served garnished with pumpkin seeds.

Friday, March 16, 2007

Revisiting the Golden Arches

Finally finished reading Gospel of Food which had a nicely well balanced discussion about McDonald's and I found myself in Long Beach at 3:30 on Tuesday, desperate to get back to work but famished, not having had time to eat at all that day. The closest food available was a McDonalds and I was in and out of the drive through with two tiny cheeseburgers (one for Rover) a more than ample sack of fries and a diet Coke in about 1 minute for about 4 bucks. The burger, is a comforting institutional style one with a dainty application of condiments and a single pickle slice, right in the middle. The bun is ethereal and fluffy and the beauty was, even though I hadn't had this simple treat in many years, it was the same as I remembered it, and while the word classic is overused, it was comforting and I will indulge the hankering as mindfully as possible, every few years. The fries are sad vestiges of their beef tallow predecessors. The texture's not bad, but there's no potato flavor at all. Nevertheless, clean, reliable, and probably not the devil incarnate. That would be Burger King...

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Northern California Field Notes

I messed with himself’s vacation and fled by myself for a few days of bliss in the northern part of our state. I had intended to dine in Palo Alto on Wednesday night with my dear cousin and her partner but when I wasn’t even close to leaving town at noon, I knew that wasn’t going to happen. On a whim, I called the Ventana Inn in Big Sur, one of the most beautiful places I have ever stayed, and I got a deliciously discounted room with a fireplace. I arrived at about 8:00 p.m. and was able to walk on an amazing verdant trail which connects the Ventana Inn to the Cielo restaurant, which is handsome and tasteful. I had a swirled soup with two different types of mushrooms (I forget which kinds. Can I still sort of call this restaurant writing and expense just a bit of the trip?) but both were kind of murky and undistinguished. Also, workmanlike but uninspired was a roasted beet salad with decent quality goat cheese. For casual, I like the Big Sur Bakery which himself says is over rated but for a bit more formality, Cielo is way way better than Nepenthe, and while I have not eaten at the Post Ranch, this is probably the best meal destination in Big Sur although it’s so not about the food. I did beg for a few cookies (kind of boring chocolate things) to take back to the room and these were provided warmly and at no cost.

I insinuated myself into some high end dining in the city but alas, the company was so lovely I was distracted from my usual bitchy scrutiny. I had a wonderful lunch at Boulevard, the liquid portion of which certainly distracted me from the solid but which seems to be an adult type of restaurant, the sort of which we are short on in Southern California.

That night, I happened into a dear friend and mooched a meal at One Market, a comparable uber adult establishment. I was delighted to find my favorite Jerusalem Artichokes on the menu and they were so delicious I made it a point to bring a big batch from the Ferry Bldg. to my next stop in Felton. My host googled the tuber, discovered it is one of the greatest inducers of flatulence on the planet and I presume now the ones in Felton face extinction by liquefaction in a refrigerator, which was beautifully cleaned out for a change, in honor of my arrival with edible food.

I’d never made it to the Rose Pistola and by the time I finally did, I wasn’t even really up for dessert, nevertheless, even though I ordered dumb wine without my glasses, it was all as sweet as could be. Lovely. I hope to return there.

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Spuds and His Mother Take the Train to Olvera Street

Spuds and I went to Olvera Street on Saturday night just as the Chinese New Year’s celebrations were winding down. Luz Del Dia and La Golondrina both had long lines so we tried El Paseo, just to say we had. I’ve heard all the hubbub about the dastardly Americanization of Mexican food, but Spuds and I both like fajitas. There, I said it. Plus, they are lower than fat than many other Mexican items, if you use corn tortillas and go easy on the guacamole. I’m also fond of tamale pie but won’t digress that far.

The beef in El Paseo’s fajitas was sort of chunky and tough and misshapen. I was pleased that the onions were cooked to a clear state and the accompanying peppers were nice. They were out of handmade tortillas (out of hands, I guess) which was rather a crushing blow. A plate with the requisite mediocre rice and bean (w/ cheese) and guacamole, all together on the same plate after more than a few minutes under a heat lamp, didn’t perk things up. Note to self: mounding guacamole on a nest of shredded lettuce does not protect it from exposure to heat.

So, edible but mediocre but we ate inside in an ancient (for Los Angeles) basement dining room and a long communal table and it was one of the most incredibly monastic dining experiences I have ever had. Truly a gorgeous space, well worth not enjoying a meal in.

After dinner I succumbed to the lure of Mexican candy and bought about a dozen pieces, few of which made it home. Even Spuds loved it and we both noticed how pure it tastes next to some of the other sweets I hate to admit we all consume all too frequently. We picked up a couple of different cajeta bars, a few different coconut candies (including the one with the pink and green stripe which is just TOO sweet), pumpkin and sweet potato which are remarkable and I am not stupid enough to believe that eating a small piece of pumpkin with about a pound of sugar BOILED INTO is righteous. But, hey.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

What Food is there in your life that you must account for?

Rice Crispie Bar, at this moment, untouched.

There is a Rice Krispie Bar on table at Budget

And more about food VERY Soon. Here. Promise.

Monday, February 12, 2007

Preliminary Report on the Big Bat Mitzvah

Being such a fair-weather Jew of late, I sometimes even think about reintroducing pork and shellfish to my lexicon but I sort of like the artistic challenge that restrictions and limitations pose. Plus, avoiding treyf forces me, usually daily, to have at least the spiritual notion of avoiding treyf. I pissed off my vegetarians by calling them sanctimonious and I revel in the power I wield and the fear I inspire lest I happen upon a Cup 'o Noodles in a friend’s pantry. I snoop around in your bathrooms too. Some of you should conceal your Viagra more discreetly, bearing in mind the collapsing real estate market and the cost per pill (FROM WHAT I HEAR.) I admit my abuse of my vegetarian friends comes from my own spiritual deficiency. I am too selfish and arrogant enough to feel qualified enough as an artist to rationalize excluding only that which is treyf from my palette. I am sorry.

Even though brisket was part of the main course, I think on the whole. Mollie Goldberg's Bat Mitzvah completely conformed to the Manifeasto credo of eating mindfully. The whole thing has been filmed by Mrs. Kravitz and Paul in gorgeous high definition, although they were going pretty heavily at the wine and I have yet to see the final footage. Likewise, Hayden, Phil, and Robert from Square One (assisted by the lovely Lydia and a gorgeous Snow White beauty whose name I forget) made extra sure that the wines provided by the folks at Colorado Wine conformed to the vintages we tasted there at the store. In fact, the test of John and Jenn the wine merchants’ integrity was a great personal sacrifice on the part of the Square One trio, as breakfast prep at the restaurant begins several hours before dawn.

On the night of the acrobatic gefilte fish grind (video coming to this blog mighty soon) Hayden was totally personally relating to Himself's legendary misanthropy, something like, “Oh. I hate people too.” But, by the end the party, I got wonderful drunken blather footage about how much she LOVES people and COOKING FOR THEM (eyes brimming with fucking tears!). Not to mention the footage in which she admits that my (FALSE!) allegation that her knife cut croutons came from a box, broke her heart and how pastry people have particular and sensitive issues with criticism of this nature. I will note I made a huge and very public retraction and will aver here publicly AGAIN and for the record, Hayden Ramsey, when sober, has such wonderful knife skills that I wish I'd known her before I shelled out for the boob job.

Jayne's prayers for NO RAIN were heard. The rentals arrived. I dropped off a carload of stuff early Saturday morning in the bracing cold to be met by Jayne and Mollie (in shorts!) and cousin Audrey from some place in Canada where it's 30 below, who came down the 50 or so steps (ALL OF THEM BAREFOOT!!!) from the house that would only be owned by a cardiac rehab nurse, WHO APPARENTLY HAS WITNESSED A NUMBER OF PEOPLE SUFFERING EXCRUTIATING DEATH FROM FAT UNEXERCISED HEARTS. They offloaded my car in seconds. Like fucking Sherpas. I came home and watched t.v. with Leo. The Goldbergs schlepped and decorated. Rena packed gorgeous party bags with our custom scallion and lemon zest bagels from the Brooklyn Bakery (footage coming of this too). The folks at Square One spent a busy day running a restaurant, after having put up with me calling their customers assholes on my birthday and interfering with them trying to accomplish anything in their kitchen for the entire week. The ceremony went off gorgeously although I snuck off a little early, ostensibly to help the Square One folks prepare for the onslaught, but truly to snag a good parking place as the valets had fallen through.

I arrived, knowing the crowds would be ascending (those fucking steps) in mere moments to see Phil still unloading unheated food up the cardio rehab stairmaster. I decided to stay out of the way and set up the coffee. I filled the percolator with water and then realized Mrs. Kravitz was chasing me with the camera so, of course, I had to drop everything and go make sure I had no lipstick on my teeth (because I can't trust my own cinematographer to warn me) plugged in the water without adding the coffee and went to preen. Guests were beginning to arrive by then and by some magic, the appetizer stations appeared nearly instantly. I returned to the kitchen and discovered that some nervous nelly had unplugged the percolator, not thinking it could survive a moment without the coffee insert. I plugged it back in and did some real cute mugging for the camera, which then I sheepishly sent off to cover the party while I SUPERVISED the clean up of the kitchen after the explosion of boiling coffee. I was wearing my party clothes!

I chatted merrily in front of the camera again, while the Square One folks discovered that the Goldberg oven was too tiny to accommodate the half hotel pans after I assured them that ANY OVEN IN THE FUCKING UNIVERSE would hold a half hotel pan. I schmoozed and held forth while the Square One folks ingeniously improvised using aluminum foil, the backyard grill and some sort of magic because I can't figure out how all that food got warmed and served. I will add, for the record, I made only the chopped liver by myself. Everything else was perfect and delicious and I think will stand legendary as one of the best party meals ever. And that ain't chopped liver.

Jayne stayed up all night chaperoning the co-ed slumber party the evening dissolved into. Hayden, Robert and Phil had to open for a busy breakfast trade, starting their day at about 4. I cuddled with Himself under the covers, listening to the rain and read a few chapters of The Gospel of Food. Fraudulent and relaxed.