Archive for April, 2009

The New Baby Blues

April 30, 2009

When I was a kid there was a restaurant in Studio City called Bar-B-Que Heaven. I believe Shiki Sushi is currently in its spot in a strip mall off Ventura near Whitsett. Bar-B-Que Heaven had the most succulent, tender ribs with the richest, most flavor-abundant sauce in Los Angeles. Nothing came close to rivaling it. Bar-B-Que Heaven has long since closed and a number of other rib-slingers have opened. One such bar-b-que haven is Baby Blues in Venice. They probably are the closest to rival Bar-B-Que Heaven in quality and nostalgia-inspiring bliss.

Recently Baby Blues opened a second location in West Hollywood. The trendier neighborhood and larger space were worrisome, so I put them to the test this week. We started with shrimp Suicide Kings.
baby blues shrimp suicide kings
Compared to when I had them in Venice the cornbread seemed different. It was more like a slice of cake or slice from a loaf of cornbread. It was very moist, to the point that it was almost like cookie dough. Enjoyable but not necessarily amazing.

I ordered a half rack of baby back ribs with okra and coleslaw. The ribs were fall-off-the-bone tender and not too fatty. Baby Blues signature sauces are too vinegary for my taste- I prefer spicier and thicker- I know it’s a regional discrepancy. The sides lacked compared to the Venice location.
baby blues pork ribs

My dad ordered a Flintstone’s sized beef rib to accompany his spare ribs. The sheer size of the bone deserves accolades. The flavor did as well.
baby blues beef

Flintstones Ribs

In conclusion Bar-B-Que Heaven remains the unmatched champion of LA BBQ. If it only it still existed…


Those Zany Zanzabelles

April 29, 2009

Finally had a chance to check out Silverlake’s Zanzabelle. The decor is borrowed from Walley World (Chevy Chase’s destination in the 80’s hit Vacation).


That’s Chevy Chase (above), that’s Zanzabelle (below).

zanzabelle zanzabelle2

The ice cream is from Fosselman’s.


The most intriguing aspect is their weekend dinner menu (called Freight Foods). It rotates weekly and costs less than $30 per person. They don’t turn the tables on you and there’s no corkage. Sounds like a fun night to me and I’ll be trying dinner there soon.


Freight Foods
2912 Rowena Ave., Silver Lake
L Mon.-Sat.
D Thurs.-Sat.

The F U Swine Flu Food Marathon

April 27, 2009

In the face of the swine flu drama, I felt the need to stand up for Mexican food and pigs. In their time of adversity someone needed to show strength and understanding. And although no reported cases had been found from eating pork, I would do my part by consuming pork tacos at fine Mexican establishments across the west side of Los Angeles.

So the taco marathon began at Tacos Por Favor on a beautiful Sunday afternoon.
tacos por favor

This was my first trip to the highly rated and heavily trafficked west side Mexican food haven. We waited in a short line before ordering. I should add that this was the first marathon where I was the only male. I was joined by three not-so-pork-friendly females, so most of the fish ordering was on their behalf.

I had a chorizo/cheese taco and a carne asada taco.
tacos por favor
They had mahi mahi tacos and a chicken taco. One jamaica and one watermelon agua fresca washed them down.

At first I was concerned because Tacos Por Favor’s clientele was 100% white. In the end the food was really good, even if it didn’t reach taco truck levels of authenticity (read: lard).

Next up was another busy purveyor of Mexican street food, Mariscos Guillen La Playita.

A simple street-side stand, this seafood-slinging shop supposedly had good ceviche and fish tacos. I was on a pork run so threw in tacos al pastor.laplayita2

The fish tacos were mushy and bland. The ceviche wasn’t very good either- no defined citrus flavor, just liquid and shrimp chunks. The pork tacos were fine, but didn’t rival Tacos Por Favor. Overall a very poor showing- actually enough to dissuade us from continuing on the Mexican taco tip. (Sorry, Pancho’s Tacos and Taqueria Chihuahua, you have Guillen to blame.)

To finish the run, we opted for a west side restaurant I’d heard about many times but never visited- Cha Cha Chicken. With a six-pack of Pacificos in hand, we ordered their famous jerk chicken with dirty rice and spicy fries. chachachicken1

The girls had jerk enchiladas

It was a swine-less stop, serving Carribean chicken, but it fit the day perfectly and now I can check it off of the places that I’d never been. Not sure if I’ll rush back as I thought the chicken was itself was bland, despite tasty sauce and skin.

I was asked how this marathon differed from marathons with my usual cohorts, and this definitely was healthier. First, most marathons lack the requisite mural of naked sunbathers who’ve eaten too many jerk chickens.chachachicken4

Also, there weren’t any food comas, no need for the Burn-be-Gone Box and overall it was an easy run. So far I haven’t shown signs of deadly swine flu either, so I guess it was a success.

The All Kinds of Yum Food Marathon

April 24, 2009

For the fourth blogger mashup food marathon I met up with Tannaz from All Kinds of Yum for a Fairfax marathon.

My parents grew up in the Fairfax district, graduated from Fairfax High School, and aptly represented the Jewish immigrant community that inhabited the neighborhood in the 60’s. Years earlier, my grandparents moved west from New York and Cincinnati to Boyle Heights before ultimately settling on Ogden and Poinsettia respectively. fairfax
I remember eating blueberry danishes with my grandfather on Fairfax as a kid. Today shoe-shopping skaters in overpriced streetwear flank senior citizens shuffling to shul or to buy gefilte fish and rugelach.

We chose Canter’s as the staple old school Fairfax restaurant and Animal and Golden State to represent the new school. Starting at Canter’s we noticed how crowded it was at night- proving its ability to cater to the entire range of Fairfax foot traffic.
Canters canters

We started with pickles and I had my mom’s favorite egg cream.
Canters Canters

The famed corned beef and waffles followed. I’d forgotten how good their corned beef is- much better than Greenblats.
canters corned beef canter7

We were underwhelmed by the fruit cup, which we’d heard stories about. Turns out the story concerned the attention the owner paid to keeping them from sitting in the fridge too long- not the flavor or quality of the fruit itself.

Next we walked a few doors north to Animal. Stealing the title of “most New York-ish restaurant in LA” from Mozza, Animal has quickly become the hottest restaurant in town. We were only gonna try dessert so we saddled up at the bar.

The insanely decadent doughnuts and the bacon chocolate bar epitomize Animal’s m.o.- rich, well-executed flavors, bold ingredients and fantastic results.
animal animal

To finish the marathon we crossed the street to Golden State where I had a scoop of Scoops gelato. I envy the proprietors Jim and Jason, for the risked a lot to follow their passion and dream.

A simple scoop of lime cheesecake would suffice after a late night eating binge.
scoops at golden state

Tannaz and I actually have a lot of friends in common inside and outside the food world. More importantly she (along with Jason from Golden State) is part of the crew that runs the most badass food marathon in LA- the 11 in 11 (that’s an 11 restaurant marathon). Check out 11 in 11: China here.

We also discussed my meal mashup idea which I will post about soon…

Second Best Meal at Coachella

April 23, 2009

I was planning on writing about the best meal in the history of Coachella until I read about Cut sous chef Ken Concepcion’s weekend. So I guess the meal I had Saturday morning was the second best meal at Coachella.

For six of the last seven years I’ve enjoyed the majesty and migraines of the desert music festival known simply as Coachella. There’s been hundreds of great bandsthousands of sweaty hours in the dance tent, scores of picturesque sunsets, not nearly enough minutes in front of the misting fans and billions of ingested dust/dirt particles. In the beginning food was a total afterthought. One rough year’s consumption of spicy sausages, chips and salsa for breakfast and a Hadley’s date shake left a lasting impact which I won’t get into detail about.

In a sign of more adult behavior, this year featured a home-cooked meal by a friend’s mom who lives in Palm Desert.

coachella meal

Cool, fresh caprese never tasted as good as when eaten in the 100 degree desert. Multiple courses of sausage never were as satisfying or necessary as when eaten between twelve hour days of direct sunshine, blazing heat and even hotter dance moves. Soft, fluffy gnocchi never comforted as much as when enjoyed with mimosas and bloody marys next to a stunning golf course, lake and swimming pool. Lord knows the naked wizard could have used the meal before he got tasered by security:

coachella naked wizard
(the purple suit is his costume and the white boa on the floor is his prop…)

As of today I’m announcing my retirement from Coachella, but I’ve said that before…

Two Not-So-Hot Tamales

April 22, 2009

As a follow up to my recent Tamale post here’s a quick review of La Guera Tamalera’s take-out tamales from Locali.

La Guera Tamalera

I ordered the Blue Corn Jalapeño & Cheese and organic free range Chicken tamales. They’re heated upon ordering at Locali and boxed for take-out.

You can see that although they’re made without lard, corn oil, gluten or transfat the heating/boxing causes them to sweat.
La Guera Tamalera

They’re tube-shaped, as opposed to the more common rectangular form.

La Guera Tamalera

They were a bit dry and, probably because I’m used to the unhealthy version, not as flavorful as I hoped.

I have no doubt that they’d be phenomenal fresh from the kitchen, but pre-made, and reheated left a lot to be desired.

The Lake Show Food Marathon

April 9, 2009

lakerslogoOne of the original food marathoners had Lakers tickets so we ran a pre-game food marathon. We’re gonna run another Lakers food marathon around the time they win the championship in June.

downtown skyscrapers

First stop was Nickel Diner for the much-hyped maple bacon doughnut.
Nickel Diner

We threw in a Nutella doughnut,
nickel diner donuts

and chocolate peanut butter potato chip cake
nickel diner cake

to compliment the free red velvet doughnut holes.Nickel Diner donut holes

We also split the 5th and Main (spicy bbq pork hash with eggs).nickel diner hash

It was excessive to start a marathon but we couldn’t help ourselves. I hadn’t eaten all day, the desserts looked phenomenal and we’re dumb. Ultimately we didn’t need the Nutella doughnut, we took most of the cake to go and loved the spicy hash.

We ran around the corner to Cole’s for the second stop.

A lamb and goat cheese french dip coles french dip

with bacon potato salad and atomic habañero pickles coles potato salad
were ordered and quickly devoured. Between the spicy mustard and spicy pickles Cole’s could have been on the Spiciest Food Marathon.

I’m glad we went with the neo-French dip because it was tasty and no one can mess with Philippes, so why try. The bacon potato salad wasn’t nearly as good as Top Chef Masters contestant, Ludo, used to make at Ludobites.

Wasting no time we walked over to Wurstkuche.

We added a member to the marathoning team at this point and ordered three sausages:
wurstkuche sausages
the Bockwurst with caramelized onions and spicy peppers, the Austin Blues with caramelized onions and sweet peppers and the duck and bacon with jalapeno peppers, sweet peppers and sauerkraut and Belgium fries.
wurstkuche fries

We also had a trio of Manhattan Special sodas (Sarsaparilla, Vanilla Cream and Orange). wurstkuche sodas

The Bockwurst was terrific, the others were ok. The sodas were very helpful.

I got a call that my dinner was actually starting earlier than I’d planned so I had to cut the marathon short. Instead of ordering food at Riverarivera
I just got a Smoke on the Water (scotch, raspberries, lemon, agave nectar)rivera scotch

The cocktail is another example of using an alcohol without any trace of that alcohol’s natural flavor. In this case it was scotch, a flavor I actually would have liked to taste more of in the drink. I recently experienced the same phenomenon at the Rosangel event at Malo- where a variety of cocktails were made using the signature Rasangel tequila without a trace of the typical tequila flavor.

Stay tuned for another Lakers food marathon in a few months…

Happily Hurry to Hudson House

April 8, 2009

I don’t venture down to Redondo Beach often. Now that Hudson House is open I have much more incentive. Merrill Shindler’s review in The Daily Breeze echos my sentiments and those sentiments are:

The Beer Battered Cauliflower Fritters are exemplary examples of California bar food. Deep fried batter surrounds crunchy cauliflower florets- a healthier alternative to cheese or shrimp.hudson house cauliflower fritters

Slow Roasted Plum Tomatoes & Burrata with Arugula, Balsamic, Carmalized Onion, Grilled Bread are rich in flavor with balanced textures (soft, smooth cheese/flaky bread).Burrata and Tomatoes at Hudson House

The Hudson Pretzel Burger (dare I say it) could take on a Father’s Office burger. The pretzel bun is necessary to hold the bold flavors of bacon, grilled onions, arugula and Jarlsberg.Pretzel Burger with grilled onions, bacon, Jarlsberg at Hudson House

The terrific beer list is equally split between rare brewers like Hitachino NestStraporamen, the Czech “Budweiser” Czechvar and commoners like Amstel light and cans of Tecate.Hitachino Nest beer at Hudson House

The Final Four was on the flat screen, there are tables for large groups and small, happy hour deals, the kitchen is open, parking was easy… it’s really on par with the Village Idiot, Father’s Office and Laurel Tavern, probably even better- just a bit further away. As the temperature gets warmer make a beach day out of it, stop at the massive Mitsuwa in Torrance and have dinner at Hudson House soon.

514 N. Pacific Coast Highway
Redondo Beach, CA 90277
(310) 798-9183

Street, The One-Stop Food Marathon

April 3, 2009

Street is a concept that so perfectly appeals to me that, even though it wasn’t the best meal I’ve had, I still feel good about it. It’s literally a one-stop food marathon, covering dishes from all around the world.

Read these three reviews first.

Street Menu, Tea Cakes and Dumplings

The “Tea Cakes and Dumplings” section of the menu was much better than the “Curries, Salads and Ovens” side. Next time I’ll be content with twelve bites from the twelve different left-menu options. The Japanese Shizo Shrimp, Cuban Stuffed Potato, Indian Vada Dumplings and Pork Dumplings all were well-cooked and tasty, but overall there’s still a “watered-down” element to the cooking. There should be an option for “authentic” spice level or “American” spice level- if not in the dishes themselves, than at least in the accompanying sauces.

Street Menu

(photo by Mattatouille)

The service was spot on, the beer choices were good, the cocktails weren’t anything special (especially at this time of master mixologists) and the room/decor/vibe was good but still needs work in the lighting department.

The CJ’s Food Marathon

April 3, 2009

Carl’s Jr. is my favorite fast food chain besides In-N-Out and Culver’s. I only orderPadma Lakshmi eating Carl'r Jr. the Western Bacon Cheeseburger, which is now mascot-ed by the equally delicious Padma Lakshmi. So when I was invited to a burger release party for CJ’s new Kentucky Bourbon Burger I cleared my calendar for it.

Although the burger was a draw, the chance that Padma might be there was the real hook. It also presented an opportunity for a quick food marathon.

First stop was the party at Crown Bar. There were a number of bloggers there, awaiting tray passed Kentucky Bourbon Burgers. They drank the house cocktail (the weak Carl’s Jr. Twisted Bourbon), mingled with the Laker Girls and chatted up the heads of CJ’s corporate. By the time the burgers were cooked in the truck out back, chopped, trayed and paraded around the bar, they were cold. Carl's Jr. Kentucky Bourbon Burger(photo credit e*star LA).

Padma was not in attendence, nor was Rob Dyrdek.

It didn’t really matter though because I was off to the second stop of the CJ’s marathon- a real Carl’s Jr.Carl's Jr.

Menufest destiny lead me to my old friend, the Western Bacon Cheeseburger.
Carl's Jr. Western Bacon Cheeseburger

It was as tasty as always, packing a satisfying 720 calories and 33 grams of fat. I usually wash it down with a Dr. Pepper, but instead walked over to Jones for some real Kentucky Bourbon.Jones in West Hollywood

Back in college I had some friends who drank Wild Turkey. They referred to it as the dirty bird for good reason- it’s pretty heinous. That said, it’s real Kentucky Bourbon, and the CJ’s marathon required a fire-spitting shot of a night cap.
shot of wild turkey at Jones

That night cap required its own healthier night cap which came in the form of a shot of Cranberry Juice- CJ’s, get it…
cranberry juice

So ended a very fast, spur-of-the-moment food marathon.