Archive for March, 2009

Authentic LA

March 30, 2009

La Casita Mexicana and Jitlada are two of the best restaurants in Los Angeles. Although Mexico and Thailand are very different geographically and culturally, the two restaurants have a lot of similarities.

First, authenticity is what sets them apart from the thousands of other Mexican and Thai restaurants in LA. Both get ingredients from their home countries and use those ingredients in recipes brought from their home countries.

Second, the flavors are so bold, unique and complimentary they cause addiction. The human body craves them shortly after consumption, causing the brain to think about them until the next visit. It has a lot to do with the balance of salty and sweet. Every time I find myself craving a dish it tends to have salty and sweet fighting a heavyweight battle for ownership of my tastebuds.

Third (and probably most important), the proprietors (Jaime Martin Del Campo and Ramiro Arvizu at La Casita Mexicana and Jazz Singsanong at Jitlada) are caring, knowledgeable, enthusiastic and passionate people, intent on delivering the best possible meal day in and day out.
Jaime Martin del Campo and Ramiro Arvizu at La Casita Mexicana Jazz at Jitlada

After trying at least 50 different dishes between the two restaurants I can fairly say that they are two of the best restaurants in LA. The Churros filled with Cajeta (Dulce de Leche) from La Casita Mexicana are worth the trip:
Churros at La Casita Mexicana

The Deep-Fried Softshell Crab with Sweet Mango Salad at Jitlada hurts so good:
Deep-Fried Softshell Crab with Sweet Mango Salad at Jitlada

I implore you to visit both before summer, especially La Casita Mexicana as it’s a bit further off the beaten path. You can’t get authentic cooking like this everywhere, so take advantage of what LA has to offer.

Jitlada
5233 W Sunset Blvd
Los Angeles, CA 90027
(323) 663-3104

La Casita Mexicana
4030 East Gage Ave
Bell, CA 90201 (about 5 miles southeast of downtown LA)
323-773-1898

Wahoo’s

March 19, 2009

It’s now been a year since the 30 Going on 13 Food Marathon and The Grand Finale of my 20′s. For this birthday I wanted to think back to 1989 I was 11 years old. If you asked me then to describe the restaurant of my dreams it probably would have looked liked Wahoo’s Fish Tacos.
wahoos

I would have stuck stickers all over the walls, hung skateboards from the rafters, served large portions of salty Mexicanish food with a soda fountain full of Dr Pepper and Root Beer.
Caballeroskateboarding is not a crimeVision Mark Gonzalez SkateboardVision Psycho Stick Skateboard

kirk gibsonI was a well-rounded youngster so the Dodgers would share equal time on the TV’s with skate videos.

It was 1989 so the soundtrack would have been:
Welcome to the Jungle by Guns N Roses
Just a Friend by Biz Markie
Every Little Step by Bobby Brown
Buffalo Stance by Neneh Cherry
Deeper Shade of Soul by Urban Dance Squad (that one’s actually 1990 but cooler than Edie Brickell and the New Bohemians).

I would have worn Stüssy hats, shirts and shorts and Airwalk shoes.
StussyAirwalk Prototype

I wouldn’t have had a very sophisticated palate, so the mushy white beans, heavily seasoned rice and watery pico de gallo wouldn’t have bothered me that much. My mom would have been happy because the fish was flamebroiled or blackened as opposed to fried. The price (a fish banzai bowl with rice, beans, Mr Lee’s Hot Sauce and bottomless fountain soda), $10 and change, is more than Taco Bell but it’s also a lot more food.
wahoos fish banzai bowl

Although Wahoo’s first opened in 1988, I didn’t try it till long after I gave up skateboarding and wearing Vision Street Wear. Ultimately there’s plenty of places that serve better food but Wahoo’s provides value and nostalgia, as well as a decent fish burrito.

Caroline on Crack Food Marathon

March 17, 2009

caroline on crack

For the third blogger mashup food marathon the focus shifted to cocktails and the blogger at the helm was Caroline from CarolineonCrack.com. The CoC booze marathon would focus on LA’s best mixologists, which is appropriate given the recent LA Weekly article where Jonathan Gold hails the return of a brilliant LA cocktail scene.

I should note that after a steady decade of drinking I, like the economy, have tapered off significantly in recent months. Instead of waiting for a government stimulus I simply turned to Caroline to reinfuse my past passion. Also I should note that recently my alcohol palate has landed solidly in the ‘scotch on the rocks’ arena, leaving most other cocktails in the past.

Also, the geographical landscape of LA often requires extensive driving on a food marathon. When drinks are involved this becomes a serious issue. Facing this challenge we decided to cut out the downtown bars for locational convenience and also because a downtown booze marathon deserves its own post. This left a westside crawl that included Comme Ça, STK and Copa de Oro. It was the mixologists that drew us to these locations, ones who had already garnered praise on the colorful pages of CarolineonCrack.com.

First up was Joel at Comme Ça. While my previous drunk persona once found daytime drinking exhilarating, my new sober self actually received similar pleasure from easily getting a parking spot right in front of the restaurant.
Comme Ca

In past visits I’d tried Comme Ça’s four signature cocktails. So this time Joel suggested a Bobby Burns from his special bar menu. This spin on a Rob Roy was a combo of a jigger of scotch, a pony of sweet vermouth and a bar spoon of Benedictine.
Comme Ca
It was gonna be hard to top. The vermouth and benedictine took the burn out of the scotch, leaving a smoothness that almost reminded me of a root beer dum dum. That’s my favorite lollipop so it’s a compliment.

At this point it became apparent that there’s something that holds true in successful people no matter what industry. Whether it’s bartending, being president or racing cars- the most successful people have three areas covered: 1. raw talent, 2. charisma that draws you in and 3. strong contacts. Joel exhibiting all three before we’d even finished our drinks. His ability to site the classics and add a modern twist is his talent. His passion for what he does helps him exude an aura that is inviting. His comraderie with his mixology cohorts (he’s part of The Sporting Life, LA’s bartenders’ guild) secures him a spot at the top of his field.

I had a half dozen oysters to compliment the brilliant drink. Cause why not…
Comme Ca

Next up was STK, where Pablo Moix left some recipes for his bartender on duty. These drinks were notably different than Comme Ça’s as they all had ice. Ultimately, and not to be insulting, they seemed to be a bit more about creativity and playfullness than drinkability.
STK Cocktails

My favorite was the Surfer on Absinthe- a twist on the highly popular Surfer on Acid (Jagermeister, Malibu and pineapple juice).
STK Cocktails

The third and final stop was Copa d’Oro. Vincenzo is the ultimate bartender- knowledgeable, gregarious, serious about his drinks yet not too serious about his job. We had a fun time at his bar, which is lively, dark and an extension of his personality. Between the thick accent and goatee, he resembles Top Chef fan favorite Fabio. Vincenzo vs Fabio

We had a bourbon-based mixture of Orange Bitter, Galliano, Peychaud Bitters and Grapefruit Rind. bourbon at copa d'oro
We also had The Diva: Sazerac Rye, Carpano Antica Sweet Vermouth, Lemon Bitters and a substitute of Mozart Dark Chocolate Liqueur.diva at copa d'oro

The surprise of the evening came in the form of Vincenzo’s genre bending Sour Kraut. It’s probably better known as “that mustard drink,” as the cocktail features Martin Miller’s Gin, Cointreau, Orange Marmalade, Fresh Lemon Juice and Dijon Mustard.
vincenzo with sour kraut at coa d'oro
On its own it’s interesting but not necessarily satisfying. Coupled with a piping hot ham and cheese panini, however, it’s phenomenal. It’s the perfect way to end an evening of drinking.

The Gold Standard Food Marathon

March 9, 2009

LA Weekly’s Gold Standard was basically a dream food marathon come true; a stellar list of LA’s best restaurants all serving their finest dishes in one building. All the food bloggers were there as well has hundreds of others. Everyone seemed happy, even when it got crowded. I was there by 2:30 and knocked out Animal, Providence, Meals by Genet, Renu Nakorn and Chili My Soul before most people had even checked in.
gold standard crowd

It turned into a day of friendly food competition with notables squaring off:
Palate’s pork
palate

being cooked behind the curtain
palate cooking pork at gold standard

vs Animal’s pork belly.
animal pork belly

Jazz brought enough food from Jitlada to feed 2,000 people. I ate the dry curry beef before taking a picture…
Jazz from Jitlada

vs Renu Nakorn who pre-packaged their shrimp,
renu nakorn shrimp

salmon panang and Thai beef salad.
renu nakorn

One of my favorite dishes of the day was Babita’s shrimp topolobampo and gueritos relleno
Babita's shrimp tamabolmpo and salmon guerrito
vs La Casita Mexicana’s green ceviche (another picture omitted due to consumption).

The music in the Tiara Cafe room, supplied with Faux Pho by Chef/DJ Fred Eric (unfortunately not pictured himself)
Tiara Cafe at Gold Standard
vs KJAZZ in the other room.

My other favorite thing of the day was Clementine’s hot chocolate. It was so thick it was almost hot chocolate pudding.
Clementine at Gold Standard

My wish would be that there were monthly Gold Standards because it saves me a ton of mileage on my car. It’s also good to see so many foodies in a city supposedly devoid of its own cuisine.

Bohopening State

March 6, 2009

Last night we did double duty, visiting the openings of both Boho and Golden State. I finally met Man Bites World, finally tried a Let’s Be Frank sausage and finally have Scoops near my house.

First stop was Boho, which will do good business because of its solid location, accessible bar food menu and lengthy list of beers.
Boho
It’s comfortable, loud and a new term we coined, “douche mature.” It’s like a guy that used to be a douche bag, but now dresses a bit nicer and carries himself a bit more classily but still has a lot of douchey friends so he still has douchebag in him. The decor isn’t naturally bohemian (unorthodox or anti-establishment), rather it’s calculated and a bit too perfect. Boho
That said, it’s better than Club Sushi. The pizzas were fine, not breaking any molds, but neither was the food at Magnolia and they did great business for years catering to a drinking crowd that wanted to eat too.

Second stop was Golden State.
Golden State

It can be summed up easily: Scoops comes west. Throw in some sausage, french fries and potato salad and you’ve got the only affordable upscale comfort food on that strip of Fairfax

Golden State beer

Some might argue that it’s too expensive, but so is their rent so you do the math. Golden State

Would have liked to see something more interesting on the tv than poker. A DJ in the loft would be a good addition too.

Scoops at Golden State

The highlight of the night was meeting the man behind Man Bites World, and I suggest you read every post if you haven’t already.

Chocolate Octopus Garden

March 5, 2009

At the Fancy Food Show I had the pleasure of meeting the geniuses at Lillie Belle Farms. They’re the ones that made the blue cheese chocolate. Well they continue to prove their chocolate mastery with this chocolate octopus garden:

Special added bonus mp3 via DJ My Shimoda: Pudding.mp3 by Belle Farms Estate.


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