Category Archives: Foodie

Finding a bar with your personality

I have looked far and wide. I’m not much of a bar person, but from time to time I’ll visit a bar. I recently had a conversation with a guy who hosts wine tasting who swore that the best memories of his life were in a neighborhood bar in Western Massachusetts. I think his statement sums up with blog entry. It is all about finding — your spot!

I always notice that almost everyone I know in my apartment complex I know from the cafe. It has a very social vibe there. I seem to get into lively conversations easily there, while in the rest of Los Angeles it just doesn’t happen. Normally when I go to bars, people are not so talkative. But, I went to a bar in San Diego in a hotel. Everyone there talked to me. The bartender told me his stories – of which there were many. The older guy to my right talked about five different subjects with me. Then, the Attorney on my left talked about business, travel, life and the universe. I think I found my bar.

The problem with bars is that you really can’t drink and drive. If I go out, I’ll have one glass of wine at the most. That limits how long you can hang out at a bar unless you have ginger beer and popcorn. But, recently I went into our neighborhood bar. I think they have turned hands three times since I have lived here. Now they are an upscale cocktail bar. They had only one choice of wines which I didn’t like. But, next time I am going to try their Cuban Ambassador cocktail. Rum, pineapple, and other flavors. I have only had a cocktail once in my life, so I am curious to try this concoction that the bar tender talked me into. I think the fact that the bartender was Cuban makes me more interested in trying a Cuban drink created by him! This is a local bar. I can walk there in twelve minutes. So, if the cocktail works out well, I can have another and still make it home alive! But, I will note, that although the new bar is in the same building that the old bar was in, the personality of the bar is quite different.

But, why would you name a 1920’s style upscale Hollywood bar — “Blue Collar?” I think that a name like, “The Roosevelt” would be much better, don’t you? Maybe some roaring 20’s music playing too to set the mood!

Drunken Noodles at Natalie Thai

For Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year, my roommate and I went out to eat. We decided to have Indian and Thai food. I had a very pleasant tandoori chicken salad at Electric Karma on 3rd street in Los Angeles. It was very satisfying, especially with the Taj Mahal beer. Later that night we drove past Mao’s Chinese Kitchen. I had read about it online, but never seen it. They have a communist China theme throughout the restaurant and I enjoyed the People’s Dumplings and other dishes. But, the dish that really caught my attention this holiday season was at Natalie Thai.

Natalie Thai has several locations in Los Angeles.
Thai people don’t find it authentic, but I think they are my absolute favorite. I will say, that being an experienced consumer of Thai cuisine, certain restaurants excel at particular dishes. Natalie Thai has always offered top notch food in my experience, but some of the other places out there are lacking when it comes to particular dishes. I have had bad Thai BBQ chicken at several places, lousy Pad Thai at a few spots, and even bad drunken noodles near the beach at a different restaurant.

Drunken Noodles.
There are certain Thai dishes that are dear to my heart. I’m not sure why I like them so much. I love Ping Fish in Red Curry sauce. It is a deep fried sole filet served with red curry sauce and with lots of basil, jalapenos, and red bell peppers. I used to get it twice a month in the old days. But, my absolute favorite is drunken noodles. I love all Thai noodle dishes. But, Natalie Thai does drunken noodles the best. I had it once with a beer, and once without a beer. It seems to be good sober as well. Drunken noodles is a dish with fried flat noodles, basil, onion, bell pepper, and egg. The ingredients are fairly typical. It is a little more spicy than other noodle dishes. They call it Monsoon Noodles at Natalie which is confusing to me.

Many names many dishes
Thai restaurants have all types of bizarre names for their dishes. Another spot called their noodles “Gangster Noodles,.” I enjoyed having that too, particularly with all the jokes my buddy and I were making about the dish. We talked about having a Thai restaurant with a gangster theme. It would be fun if nobody got shot.

Later on
After that I tried some of their raspberry white chocolate chip ice cream. Very unusual. I think I prefer regular chocolate chip or mint chocolate chip, but they didn’t have any.

Food tasting in the Art District. Earl Grey Pie & Blues Sausage

I enjoy food tasting and try to do it as much as I can. My budget doesn’t allow for me to go to the $120 five star food tasting events, but I do what I can. Los Angeles offers many opportunities for people to go out and taste new dishes. There are always new restaurants opening up, and unusual things to try. The quality in Los Angeles is generally quite good for food.

So, I went to the Wurstkuche restaurant in the arts district. I had ordered their rattlesnake sausage before. It sort of lacked flavor and needed a tender aioli instead of their flavor intensive choice of mustards. But, this time I ordered their Austin Blues Sausage. It was excellent. Filled with smokey rich flavor. Of the twenty sausages they serve there, this one is my favorite. I also tried a pheasant sausage which was very robust and I’m very glad I tried it. Next, I waltzed across the street, dodging the multitude of homeless bums that frequent the neighborhood.

I tried an Earl Gray Pie in the bakery. The crust was perfect, and then there was Earl Gray filling and cream. I have never had anything like this before. It was a fun experience. Earl Gray Pie is not my favorite, but with Earl Gray Ice Cream being popular at gourmet ice cream places, I thought I should try.

What are the funnest restaurants in Los Angeles?

I love Los Angeles and its culinary scene. To my dismay, three of my all-time favorite restaurants have gone permanently under. On a brighter note, there are new places that are excellent opening up daily.

My favorite spots in Los Angeles include:

Koi Japanese Fusion
The menu is very unusual here. They have a habit of using different types of peppers in their cooking. I like this very much although I feel they should offer a choice of how hot you want it. I ordered a habanero branzini. It was excellent, but lacked any kick. My favorite dish there is the rock shrimp roll. Other restaurants serve this dish too, but their execution is far inferior to the masters at Koi. They have great sake, innovative desserts and a menu that will make your jaw drop, not to mention how good looking the crowd is there. If you haven’t been to Koi — go there!

The Stinking Rose
This spot has a menu which is Italian and American in nature. The ambiance is one of the best in the entire metro with staff to match. Dine in the grotto (if they let you) or in the decorated dining hall next to the traditional Chianti bottles. The menu is excellent. There are many super choices including rabbit, affordable wines, and amazing pastas. This is the best spot to bring a date if you want to impress them.

Rock Sugar
This is a newer kid on the block with a multi-million dollar decor and very unusual menu. Their dishes are based on dishes throughout Asia and India. Their execution is far from traditional, but the flavors they create are fantastic. Look them up online and pay them a visit. They are in the Century City Mall.

Spagos in Beverly Hills is a traditional spot for the entitled classes. Conversations are always good, and the food is cooked by the highest level of professionals. They have a sommelier who can answer your wine questions if he is around. The menus is always different, but I have enjoyed some good Liberty Duck, chicken, and other good dishes. Their wine selection is impressive too. My most memorable night was with my buddy where he splurged and got Russian caviar for the both of us!

The Bazaar
If you are looking for a quintessential Los Angeles experience, look no further. The Bazaar on La Cienega, Beverly Hills is very bizarre for lack of a better word. There are multiple restaurants and bars inside. The ambiance is very night-lifey, and the crowd is hip. Service is really slow, but we had some amazing Ottoman carrot fritters and other great tapas dishes there which I will not forget. The Bazaar is more for the scene and less for the food, but the food and wine are great as well.

Hope you liked my choices. I would have liked to have written more about each place, but I have to have dinner! Gotta go!

Charro had the best mole in town!

A few months ago during one of my routine trips to Tucson, AZ, I stopped by Charro. Charro is a reknowned Mexican restaurant with some of the best food in town.

What I liked
I ordered their chicken mole, and it was truly the best mole I’ve had in my life. It had just the right amount of richness, spice, and smoothness. The beans were excellent too and were made with a traditional family restaurant. The salad seemed very innovative with dried cranberries and pumpkin seeds.

What I didn’t like
The chips were not that fresh. The salsa was not noteworthy. And the tortillas had been microwaved which is a sin. I told them that I refuse to eat anything that has been nuked.

The ambiance.
I was very intrigued by the interior of the restaurant. It was very 1800’s and even had stained glass windows. There were pictures of Native Americans, Cowboys, Sombreros, and more. There was even an antiquated harp hanging from the ceiling.

I feel that Charro has some of the best food, ambiance, and service around. But, they just killed my experience with the bad chips, nuked tortillas, and mediocre salsa. I expect a place of their reputation to excel in all ways. I have been to tiny Mexican spots in Yuma and other locations that do much better on what I call, “The little things” like handmade tortilla chips, unforgettable salsa, and unique recipes.

Thai Salad Re-examined; A little too authentic for me this time.

I am a lover of Thai and other Asian cuisines. You probably know that by now if you frequent my blog. But, I have become painfully aware of the differences in Thai cuisine authenticity. I live in Los Angeles, about 25 minutes from Thai Town. It is too far to go just to eat a small meal, but if it is on the way, or if I’m going with a friend, I’ll sometimes invest in a trip. Parking isn’t always that easy there either which further deters my visits. But, recently I’ve been going a lot.

Judge the quality & character of the food by the customers
If you go to Thai restaurants, you should first look at the audience before you look at the menu. Are the customers mostly white people? Are they mostly Thai? Or perhaps a little of both? You can judge the quality and character of food very well just by looking at the customers on a Friday night. Is the place packed? Do they have a line? Or are they able to seat you right away? Places that are packed typically have better food, although there are no guarantees.

A little too authentic
My favorite Thai restaurants in Los Angeles include Natalie Thai (there are several branches), Chan Dara on Larchmont, and Thai Patio which has a few branches. Thai Patio used to be in my neighborhood until Whole Foods took over their spot. They have a branch in Thai town and a few other branches.

What I noticed is that at Natalie Thai or Thai Patio, the food is spiced perfectly to my particular liking. It is spicy enough, but not too spicy or too Thai. Not too Americanized either, although it must be Americanized to a point. My acupuncturist told me that no American would eat completely authentic Thai cuisine. I’m not sure if she is correct, but that would decrease your market share by about 80% leaving you with a small batch of eccentric connoisseurs. I have another Thai restaurant I like near the beach. They cater to an army of happy white people. The food is very mild there especially the salads which have lime-chili dressings. Their pad Thai is sweet as well which is an unusual twist. You could say that this beach spot is very Americanized in their cooking, but the quality is excellent none-the-less, and they have a very loyal following. Well, I wanted to know what truly authentic Thai cuisine was all about, so I made a pilgrimage to Thai town.

Somebody I know who is Thai recommended Thai Pair. I had been to a few of the other spots in Thai Town, but found the quality of their food to not be anything to brag about. Thai Pair was the spot that she said was 100% authentic. I first ordered green curry. The only vegetables were bell peppers and bamboo shoots. I felt that there should be green beans and other types of veggies too. I guess that is not their style. The next time I ordered a shrimp salad.

Shrimp Salad – Thai Pair style
This salad tasted great, and very spicy. Usually Americans are intimidated by a little spice. After living in Pune, India, I am only intimidated by an overdose of spice. But, this dish was not as spicy as it was sour. They use a lot of lemongrass, fish sauce and lime juice, not to mention chili powder. I don’t know if the fish sauce is fermented, but it is strong. In any case, it was delicious, but a little too sour for me. My stomach found it a little uncomfortable to have that much sourness in me, and my intestines were not accustomed to this either. The most interesting part of this culinary adventure were the subsequent trips to the toilet a few hours later. My urine was so pungent, that you could smell it from far away. Seafood, asparagus, and shrimp always give me smelly urine, but that fish sauce or whatever they added to the salad really amplified the experience. Executing my #2 was a bit unpleasant as this dish was hot going in, hot going out. I commend this restaurant for keeping it real. Unfortunately, I guess I’m not as much of a trooper as I thought, and will settle for 30%, or 100% Americanized Thai food in the future. My body just can’t take it!

Duck Salad at Thai Patio
Across the parking lot in Thai Town Plaza, Thai Patio had a duck salad. Most restaurants either don’t have duck, or do a poor job with duck. This salad had onions, lime juice, chili, basil, and a few other vegetables. It was delicious. Not too spicy, but not too bland either. The quality of the meat was much better than other places, and I will remember that duck salad for a long time.

Thais have many types of salads. I recommend trying them all. If you like being healthy, salad is the way to go. But, salad can get boring — unless you live near a Thai restaurant. There are glass noodle salads, larb which has ground meat in it, seafood salads, papaya salad, steak salad, and salad with sate sauce on it which is my regular favorite. Some restaurants even have other salads that I didn’t mention. So enjoy your culinary adventure with Thai salads.

Thai Burgers Anyone?

Places with fun burgers
It is fun to go to places like The Counter and get custom made burgers. What was even more fun at The Counter was when I did burger and beer tastings once. I got burgers done the way they like it instead of how I like it and it was very interesting. The sauces and the combinations of extras was quite unusual. However, the beers that accompanied the pairing were really awful and didn’t exactly match the flavors in the burger either. But, burger and beer tasting is a great idea. But, what about Thai burgers?

It is common for fun places to have multiple types of burgers. The mushroom burger, portobello, various types of cheeses, etc. But, I have never heard of a Thai burger. What would it be like?

Thai burgers
The meat of a Thai burger should be grilled. Perhaps a chicken burger, or maybe beef or even pork. I could even picture a mixture of meats. But, the meat should be well grilled and a bit charred on the outside.

The seasonings could include basil, mint, galanga (an Indonesian spice common to most Thai curries) as well as coconut or peanut sauce. Some lime could accompany the sauces as well. The philosophy behind the seasonings in a Thai burger are based somewhat on Thai sate which is a popular appetizer. It is grilled meat with a peanut, sweet, or hot sauce. The other flavors are common in Thai stir fry or salads. But, rather than generalize about Thai flavors for cooking meat, and let’s come up with some specific ideas.

The Angel Burger
We’ve all had Thai angel wings which are stuffed with glass noodles and spices. But, what if this concept could be turned into an innovative and bizarre burger? Let’s first create a patty out of chicken meat, but not regular chicken meat. Let’s use the wing meat for extra flavor. We could even fry the wings before we grind them and then mix that meat with ground meat and put glass noodles in the middle. I’m not sure how this would turn out. You might have to add the glass noodles after the fact! The burger could be cut into four quarters and each quarter (or create sliders) could have a different sauce. A lemongrass sauce, peanut sauce, sweet & spicy sauce, and a red curry sauce for the last quarter.

The Pork Belly Slider
Pork belly is popular with Koreans as it was a traditional food that helped coal miners maintain lung health. The fat in the pork belly helps to remove heavy metals from the lungs! What if you cooked some pork belly, ground it up and mixed it with ground pork, and created a patty you could grill? Then, it could be served with a spicy sesame sauce. Maybe this sounds more Korean than Thai, but it sounds delicious to me.

Wagyu Beef
Nothing beats a high quality beef like Wagyu or Kobe beef. The taste of the beef has a lot to do with where it is raised as well as what name brand it is. But, a good wagyu beef burger would go well with a peanut sate sauce in a burger, lettuce, tomato, onion, and perhaps a little mint or basil to add a little unique Thai touch to it.

Beef short ribs AKA kalbi
Forgive me, for I live near Koreatown. I rarely eat there, but, the culture has influenced me. Kalbi sliders, tacos, or anything else you can think of sound wonderful to me. But, what Thai seasonings would this traditionally Korean specialty go well with? Why not do tortilla lime short rib tacos with a basil / mint Thai sauce on the top. How is that for tri-cultural innovation?

Mixed meat
It might be fun to have a burger that is not all beef. Why not mix chicken, beef, and pork in one burger. You could have a cashew spice sauce as well just to be different. Or just use the regular sate sauce which has spices, peanut, coconut, and more!

I am not a cook and have no idea what any of these dishes would taste like. But, it is fun to think about it, and I would drive 100 miles to taste any of these creations! Maybe some restauranteur will try these some day and see how the crowd reacts!

Dessert Sushi

I love sushi. It is good for losing weight, and fun to eat. I’ve heard rumors that wasabe has chemicals that are bad for your health though, so watch out! On the other hand, wasabe kills bacteria, so if you don’t have it, then you’re in even worse trouble. But, what about a dessert sushi experience?

Nigiri ice cream & fruit combinations.
Imagine having a very cold flat piece of stoneware in front of you. It has to be cold, because ice cream will be sitting on it shortly. You know how nigiri sushi looks. It is a rectangularly shaped piece of rice with a slice of fish on it, perhaps held together by a seatbelt made of nori seaweed. But, what if this nigiri sushi was made out of fruit and ice cream?

You could create rectangular pieces of vanilla ice cream that would be one inch by two inches. Then, you could shape fruit to put on top. You could eat this with chopsticks. You could cut strawberries to fit rectangularly. You might need two slices from a large strawberry, or perhaps one vertical slice from a really abnormally large strawberry. Rectangular slices of peach, banana, or other fruits would be easier. Kiwi tastes like strawberry and might go well with this idea as well. Putting a few blueberries on a domino shaped piece of ice cream might work well. The trick here is not to let the ice cream melt, otherwise your chopsticks won’t be able to grab them properly.

Chocolate soy sauce
But, there’s more. You need to use that soy sauce pourer for this. Instead of soy sauce you use chocolate sauce! But, you better eat your concoction fast before the chocolate sauce melts the ice cream.

Ice cream sushi rolls
You could make sushi rolls with ice cream and fruit too. This might be easier. You could use rice paper instead of nori, and even put sweet rice on the outside of the roll. Just keep it cold so it doesn’t melt.

Wasabe & Ginger?
You could have candied ginger and the wasabe would be a mint paste that goes well with vanilla and chocolate.

Review of WurstKuche — downtown Los Angeles, CA: best fries anywhere

It has been years that I have been dreaming of having rattlesnake sausage. A place in Northern California said they had it, but were out of it the day that I got there. So, finally, years later, I learned that WurstKuche in Downtown Los Angeles had this amazing sausage. Theirs was a rabbit / rattlesnake sausage. Close enough! In any case, I went down there with my friend. We rarely go to the artist district except to get Japanese food in Little Tokyo which is another fun destination if you like ramen and udon.

We got a little lost driving these odd streets, with odd angled intersections. It is an old industrial part of down with defunct railroad tracks. decaying industrial buildings, and newly refurbished artist dwellings. The population there is a mix of cool artists walking their dogs at 2 am, homeless people who harass you for spare change, and the folks who go to Japantown!

So, you are probably wondering about the restaurant. Let’s get back to the point of this article! The restaurant was set up like a bar with concrete floors, elevated ceilings. It was very industrial in appearance and loud which I didn’t like. You order in the back around a hallway. They have dozens of different types of sausages, plus Belgian fries. Their soda selection redefines eclectic. They had soda selections that I have never seen before, not to mention some designer beers. I’m not a beer drinker, so I’ll tell you about what I did have.

First of all, the paper plates and steel trays came at bizarre angles. Very artistic and industrial! We ate outside to avoid the noise. A homeless lady started bothering everyone, so I tolerated her for a while and then started yelling at her and she left.

Dandelion Soda
We started the evening with sodas. I got Dandelion soda which tasted flat with bubblegum overtones. Not a favorite, but it was fun to try something new. My housemate got an old fashioned ginger beer from a boutique brewery. It was not as good as Reeds which you can get at Whole Foods. She preferred my soda and I preferred hers, so we swapped.

Rattlesnake Sausage
This sausage was not bad. It was just bland. I’m glad that it was served with onions, peppers, and they had grainy Dijon mustard which was very flavorful. They actually had a yellow mustard, a white wine Dijon, as well as a more robust grainy darker Dijon which is my favorite. I suggested that when the waitress brings out the rattlesnake sausage that she rattles a castanet for ambiance. Maybe one day they will do that.

Belgian Fries
I am not a lover of fries. They are off my diet and do nightmares for my gallbladder and liver. However, these fries were the best I’ve had in my life. They were flavorful, wide and ultra soft. The dips they give you were amazing. Curry ketchup was okay. But, the chipotle aioli was truly amazing, and I will get a double of that next time I go.

Duck & Bacon sausage
This sausage had a much more robust flavor than the other one. I like unusual foods, robust flavors, and I feel that duck and bacon go well together we well (although bacon goes well with everything.)

Austin Blues
Next time I go, I will have their BBQ flavored sausage called, Austin Blues. I’m looking forward to that.

Vegetarian Sausages
My housemate is vegetarian and was very pleased that WurstKuche had a selection of vegetarian sausages. The evening worked well for us since there were many choices of drinks, and foods that were pleasing to the both of us!

We went down to Peddlers a few blocks west for dessert. They are an ice cream joint near Main and 5th where they peddle their own ice cream using a bicycle connected to a contraption that churns the ice cream. They also have an elaborate connection of bicycle parts, chains, wheels, gears, cogs, that all go around together. They figured out how to connect all of these parts that in real life would not be connected.

Peddler’s is unique because they are run by bicycle enthusiasts who are fun and upbeat and love what they do. The ice cream is excellent and uses coconut milk which is an unusual attribute here in America. I suggested that they do a green curry flavored ice cream since they use coconut milk. I think they will not take me up on this idea. I tried the lemon shortbread ice cream there. It was excellent and I love their unusual flavors over there. You can find more about peddlers on Twitter if you are interested!

Liquid nitrogen ice cream at the Ice Cream Lab?

I saw footage of The Ice Cream Lab on television. I didn’t realize it was only three miles away in Beverly Hills, CA. So, I went on a day when I had a little extra time. Okay, it was actually at night time because you can’t get parking so easily during the day. It was about 10pm. I had just had dinner at Panini Cafe which is a great place to get kabobs, rice, soups, taftoon wrap sandwiches, and huge desserts. Their desserts are great, but too large for a single person. In any case, there is an ice cream and cupcakes place called Sprinkles half a block to the West which is where I generally go (they are ultra-popular) and the Ice Cream Lab was two blocks in the Eastward direction. So, a-walking I went!

Bizarre Flavors
I got to this lab and it was filled with people. I checked out the menu. They had six flavors of ice cream. They had green tea, banilla, donilla (vanilla with cookie dough) purple velvet, and a few other flavors. Considering that they had a clientele that was 90% Asian, I think they should have more Asian flavors like Boba flavored ice cream, red bean, lychee, jackfruit or whatever else people like in the East.

What did it taste like?
I had a try of the purple velvet. It was a little bit too cream cheesy for my tastes, but that is their all time favorite flavor, so the others like it. Banilla was excellent too, and came with two wafers. Their ice cream is unique in that it is the creamiest of any type of ice cream that I’ve ever sampled. Los Angeles is a mecca for micro-creameries, so try this one while tasting at other unique locations as well to see ice cream in a new perspective!

How do they make it?
Judging from the fact that white vapor came pouring out of their machines, through the gap beneath the glass separating the staff from the customers, and into the room — I suggested that they get mad scientist outfits and try to play on how scientific their ice cream production technology really is. I think that a Halloween lab set up with bubbling test tubes, deranged looking scientests, and perhaps a Frankenstein look alike being experimented on would be the perfect touch. I’m not sure if they have room for this, but they could try.

The basically use liquid nitrogen to freeze the cream while their machine whisks it. It is a very unusual process. The actual temperature of the liquid nitrogen is negative 320 degrees believe it or not. I was actually concerned about my safety being next to something that cold, but I didn’t die, so all is well.

Is it Kosher?
It is certified Kosher by Kosher Los Angeles.

Visit their About Us page

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