Archive for July, 2011

The Second Fancy Burger Food Marathon

July 25, 2011

This is the third burger marathon to date- the second to focus specifically on gourmet burgers. It’s because it’s easy to split burgers and there’s no end to the debate over who serves the best one.

Sinosoul and I chose four west side locations, three of which served burgers that cost more than $15 each.

First up was Petrossian. I haven’t been back since they first opened in may 2009. The house of fine caviar doesn’t mess around when it comes to burgers. The menu looks like it’s covered in caviar so I naturally assumed the burger would be as well.

At $18 there was a chance…

Setting the bar high, this rich, juicy burger was sweet and oniony with a perfectly light bun.

Although it wasn’t covered with caviar it still was awesome.

The thin, crisp fries were a salty compliment to the sweet burger. The caviar tin of ketchup was only a tease.

Our second stop served a $15 burger. Villa Blanca in Beverly Hills is famous because the woman that owns it is on The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills. While this makes it a more recognizable restaurant, it certainly doesn’t make for a more flavorful meal.

The best part about Villa Blanca was the diagonal crosswalk outside and the second best thing was the blue Ferrari next to said crosswalk.

The worst part of Villa Blanca was the fries with the burger coming in a close second.

Overcooked, with little flavor, the burger came smothered in oil cheese with a side of limp onions. Although the bun looks the same as Petrossian’s, it was less buttery.

The third stop was Miru 8691, a Korean burger fish bar that is located at 9162 Olympic Blvd. Yes, that’s not the number in the name…

It’s as mashed up as it sounds, with colorful Louis Vuitton print booths and more signage than a picket line.

According to someone, they have the best burger in LA.

The O.G. burger is a sloppy chili burger with seven spice aoli and a house glaze.

It was smaller than the previous burgers but definitely packed in a lot of flavor. Coming in at half the price of Petrossian’s burger, I wasn’t mad at it. If I was drunk it would have been brilliant, but sober I’d give it a solid “good” rating.

For a food marathon, I wasn’t full at all at this point. We split the first three burgers four ways and I didn’t waste a lot of space on fries. I did this knowing we were gonna end at Rustic Canyon.

Not too far from the original burger list-topper, Father’s Office, Rustic Canyon has unleashed their beast of a burger to the top of a lot of people’s gourmet burger lists.

I ordered an entire $22 burger for myself (with bacon, which was more like thick sliced pork belly).

With a burger looking that good you really need another picture.

Note the buttery sheen on top of the bun (and that all four burgers had the same kind of bun). I’m not sure if it makes me weak but after one big bite I had to switch to a knife and fork for this one. It was more important to get a perfectly even swath of beef, pork, bun, cheese, pickle then maintain any semblance of manliness. It was fantastic. It’s such a different burger that it’s hard to say if it’s better or worse than Petrossian’s. It’s more traditional in flavor profile, and definitely messier.

To wash down all the meat we ended with two salads: the beet, farro and feta, and the peaches and burrata.

For dessert we had sardines, because no four-burger meal is complete without them.

I anticipate many more burger marathons this year and next. There are just too many too try and not nearly enough time. Suggestions are welcome.


LA Street Food Fest 2011 Review

July 17, 2011

So carmageddon turned out to be a ploy by mass media to get ratings and scare the public into watching more television. Sucks for anyone that fell for it because they missed LA Street Food Fest. Compared to past years the lines were non-existent (except, of course, for the Grilled Cheese Truck and Cool Haus).

There was too much food to try it all, even for a professional food marathoner.

One of my favorite parts of food events is to watch the chefs barter with each other.

The highlights were the Baja chefs who brought Mexico’s finest including:

La Guerrerense:  Sea Urchin Tostada

They have a line of salsas including a habanero, peanut blend that started the day off with a kick.

Mision 19:  Pacific Oyster Asada w/ Chicharron Short Rib, Serrano Ponzu Butter, Lemongrass Foam

For Cinco de Mayo a Mexican director and producer made us a delicious dinner. Their friend, chef Javier Plascencia, has a stellar restaurant in Tijuana that my business partner and client visited last weekend. They came back raving about it so I was thrilled to try the oyster.

Manzanilla Restaurante: lengua, beef cheek and abalone

Some of my favorites were actually LA’s Mexican street food.

Mariscos Jalisco:  Tacos Dorado de Camaron

Mexicali Taco & Co:  Vampiros (garlic infused quesadilla)

Antojitos Carmen:  Alambre Taco + Mini Pambaso + Mini Squash Blossom Quesadilla

They have one of the best spicy sauces in LA. It doesn’t look menacing as it’s creamy, but don’t be fooled. It’s vicious and delicious. So good, in fact, that we took a cup home.

The spice required an antidote. It came in the form of Ice Ice Shavie’s sublime Hammer Thyme shaved ice. You know I’m a sucker for 90’s music references so I was happy that the product lived up to the marketing.

Ice Ice Shavie: Shaved Ice: Hammer Thyme (strawberry, thyme, lemon, ginger) + Mojito (mint, lime)

I’ve never heard as many ball jokes as I did yesterday. It seems restaurants have realized balls are the easiest thing to serve at events like Street Food Fest, so Tiara Cafe, The Mighty Boba Truck and:

Starry Kitchen:  Pandan Donut Holes + Double Fried Sweet Ginger Chicken Wings

Great Balls on Tires:  Ballywood  (Indian meatball on rice)

Picca continues its reign over July. Besides the Food & Wine Best New Chef title for Chef Ricardo Zarate
and the successful opening of Picca on Pico, add serving one of the best dishes at Street Food Fest to the list.

Mo-Chica + Picca:  Peruvian Cau Cau (tripe stew)

America loves corn. It’s no wonder Peruvian food is making big strides- they have the biggest corn kernels….

Moo Dae Po II:

Yxta Cocina Mexicana:  Shrimp Taquitos

GuelaguetzaMole Tamales

Cacao Mexicatessen: Venison Chorizo Verde, Tortilla de Jicama, Serrano Relish, Goat Cheese Crema Mexicana

The Frysmith: Bacon & Port Poutine + Habanero Chicken Chili Fries

Glowfish:  Okonomiyaki

Maggie’s Meat & Bread:  Choripan w/ Tortilla Espanola, Chimichurri + Carbonada Criolla Tacos (Beef Shank, Pumpkin Aioli, Argentine Queso)

Streets of Thailand:  Legendary Thai Iced Tea + Sailor Jerry Rum Mashup

Seoul Sausage Co:  Kalbi Sausage + Spicy Kimchi Pork Sausage

I Love LA. This is Stupid.

July 15, 2011

I took this picture last night. It’s appropriate for many reasons.

First, I love LA because you can see Elvis, Chong (of “Cheech and …” fame) and a tranny sitting together at a bus stop.
Second, because they’re sitting next to a poster that boldly says This is Stupid.
Third, it’s even more appropriate tonight because of Carmageddon.
Have a good weekend.

The College World Series Food Marathon

July 7, 2011

Every summer the best teams in college baseball meet in the middle. Literally. In Omaha, Nebraska (the middle of America) on summer solstice (the middle of the year) eight teams compete for the national championship. It’s not nearly as popular as the NCAA basketball tournament (on which there’s $2B bet every year). Yet it has sentimental value for me, as I’ve always loved baseball and wanted to go to the CWS since I was a kid.

The games I watched as a kid were played at Rosenblatt Stadium. This year a brand new stadium debuted, Omaha’s TD Ameritrade Park. Same friendly people, considerably more comfortable seats.

While I’m sure some of the character couldn’t be replaced, the new stadium was beautiful, with the same dimensions on the field and good views from every seat.

The thing about college baseball is that it’s really about the team winning. Individual players and performances are only secondary to the win. The national champions, South Carolina, actually made it to the final game without hitting a home run and still went undefeated in Omaha. College baseball is like simple, purist sushi versus the spicy tuna crunch roll of Major League Baseball.

Fine, enough about baseball. The first thing I ate in Omaha was a steak, of course.

This baseball bat sized tomahawk from Sullivan’s was dry aged and enormous. We sat next to Nomar Garciappara and stuffed ourselves with Omaha steaks, blue cheese covered wedges and a side of creamed corn. It wasn’t the best steak I’ve ever had, but damn good.

They’re not known for their barbecue, but in a city famous for steaks you still can get decent brisket, ribs and pork. These were from the fan fest outside the stadium.

The best meal of the trip was at Bohemian Cafe. They serve Czechoslovakian cuisine. Food that requires sitting for 3 hours afterward. Coincidentally that’s the only thing we planned on doing.

The decor and staff are from another a time. A happier time when one didn’t feel guilty eating 4,900 calories for lunch.

This gravy covered brilliance is their special $8 lunch combo. After the liver dumpling soup (not pictured, but imagine delicious liver flavored matzo balls denser than freshly poured concrete) we were served a plate of gravy. Under the gravy was tender Svickova (Czech style sauerbraten), sweet and sour cabbage and Czech dumplings. We also had their Polish sausage and sauerkraut, because we couldn’t not have them.

Next to Bohemian Cafe sits another CWS staple. The little stand called Ethnic Sandwich Shop makes a range of best-in-Omaha sandwiches, with daily specials that include Hot Roast Beef, Lasagna and Mac and Cheese. I kept it simple with the Sparky (a hoagie with hard salami, capicola ham, lettuce, tomato, red onions and Italian dressing).

The highlight of the trip was an off the beaten path dive, aptly called Happy Bar.

Tall boys of PBR for $3. Air Conditioning set to 68 degrees (it was a humid 88 outside). A welcoming, staff and patrons. Happiness defined.

We took a short drive to Wahoo, Nebraska to try a couple of local favorites. Wahoo Locker is a cured meat champion. They win awards for their summer sausage. The lingering smoky aroma of their award winning jalapeno and cheddar beef sticks made the most lasting impression of the trip.

Before we left we got butterburgers and frozen custard from Culver’s. My affinity for Culver’s stems from many post-disc-golf burgers during college. As I introduce it to new people, who are totally underwhelmed and disappointed I realize it’s simply a point of nostalgia as opposed to a great fast food spot.

It’s worth mentioning the crazy storm that blew through at the end of one of the games. We drove straight towards this insanely menacing cloud, before a tree blew across the street. We turned into the first building we could find, which happened to be a hospital, and waited it out. The saying holds true, “if you don’t like the weather, just wait ten minutes.”

After many days without a vegetable I was ready to return to the arid Los Angeles basin. I can happily check the CWS off the bucket list.