Archive for the ‘Food Marathons’ Category

The Ramen Food Marathon

October 29, 2012

If I like my ramen broth so full of lily pads of pork fat that Frogger could easily traverse back and forth without stepping on a noodle, does that make me a bad person? Is it the equivalent of liking Michael Bay movies? No nuance, no subtly- all just over the top flavor explosions. Because I love Ramen Hayatemaru, and I think it’s the Transformers of ramen.

Tony and I did a four stop ramen marathon in Torrance because I don’t have the patience to wait in line on Sawtelle. Hayatemaru was overwhelmingly my favorite. Not just because Jonathan Gold walked in while we were halfway through our ramen, thus validating it after Garrett stamped his approval. And not because they have ice cold beer. It’s because of the almost gravy-like consistency of the pork-rich broth. It’s not quite thick enough for the chopstick to stand straight up, but it’s on the way to that level of fatty density.

I was totally underwhelmed by Ramen Iroha. With their simple red, black and white menu and high marks from Gold, this Japanese import seemed promising.

Perhaps my lack of enthusiasm means I don’t have a sophisticated enough palate to appreciate its refined nature. When it comes to sushi I’m a purist, and maybe Iroha appeals to the ramen purists. But as I said before, I’m a glutton for richness in my ramen.

Jidaiya was pretty good, and on its own probably would be a satisfying bowl of ramen. When sandwiched between three other bowls it just didn’t stand out. Also, they don’t have alcohol but they have a very extensive list of non-alcoholic beer….

The least enjoyable bowl of ramen was from Umenoya. Their’s was full of onions and garlic, overpowering the flavor of the broth.

For more ramen reviews check out this Chowhound link.


The Boulder Food Marathon

July 3, 2012

The fires in Colorado reminded me that I needed to post the Boulder Food Marathon that I did last November. Although it skewed towards burgers it also covered some of the town’s favorites.

In total we walked 11 miles and hit 9 restaurants.

Our first stop was Rueben’s Burger Bistro. They have Kwak on tap, served in a glass in a wooden holder. There’s some discussion online as to whether you’re supposed to leave the glass in the holder when drinking or remove it. I held the wooden handle out of sheer laziness.

The Spoke burger was covered in onion rings, bleu cheese and bacon. It was as rich as the Pike’s Peak Gold Rush prospectors that stormed the city in the late 1850’s. (Learning is fun.)

We made a quick stop at a Colorado fast casual chain called Noodles & Company. We really stopped there because Colorado is where fast casual was born. Have you heard of a little unstoppable virus called Chipotle? They’re based in Denver. Forbes’ 2011 Most Promising Company, Smashburger? Denver as well. Noodles, Mad Greens, there are too many restaurants to count. They’re a response to Fast Food Nation and the obesity problem plaguing America. But does Noodle & Co’s 800 calorie Pad Thai with an entire day’s worth of sodium help? No. Does everyone feel better calling it Fast Casual instead of Fast Food? Yes. Marketing department 1, fat Americans 0. (Learning is scary.)

Next up was Illegal Pete’s. This drunken burrito and taco specialist (the patrons are drunk, not the burritos) serves up many meats and vegetables in small or large tortilla vessels.

We had a platter of tacos: chicken, shredded beef, steak and pork carnitas. Doesn’t compete with LA but served as another non-burger stop on the marathon.

Mountain Sun Pub and Brewery was the beer stop on the tour.

They have a fine selection including some nitrogenated beers. That’s beer brewed with nitrogen to allow a better mouthfeel and dense, creamy head… We sampled many, but this place deserves a full afternoon of drinking. Not just a stop on a marathon.

Next was a sub shop called Snarf’s. They make damn good sandwiches and probably will be my first stop when we return to Boulder this Christmas.

We split the artichoke, feta and provolone sub because we’re weak. We wanted to save room for more burgers and I’m getting too old to properly do food marathons. For a non-meat sandwich it was still excellent.

Larkburger was the next stop. This place falls back into the Fast Casual department but with truffle oil.

It’s definitely a good burger and their design/aesthetic is great. I look forward to watching their progress on

The burger bonanza continued at Dark Horse Bar and Grill. It’s a big, fake-ID-driven sports bar that has the same A.D.D. decor and underage crowd as Barney’s Beanery, but more pioneer.

Dark Horse’s burgers aren’t made with care, but they are made on a well-seasoned griddle. Years of alternatingly drunk/hungover/drunk cooks have slaved over this griddle flipping burgers.

Their deep fryers have had as many basket dunks as LeBron, yielding great onion rings.

Before our last burger we tried Ben and Jerry’s Schweddy Balls. Because we couldn’t not. No picture or review is necessary.

Pearl Street Pub provided an excellent burger finale. Bordering on rare and with enough salt to force two extra rounds of beers, Pearl Street makes a simple, solid bar burger.

For dessert, we got cookies from Boulder Baked. And because I’ve made it this whole post without making the easiest Boulder joke you can make, I’ll leave the mental state of their clientele to your imagination. (It’s all in the name). They bake your cookies to order, which is an exercise in patience that can only yield sweet rewards.

For a city supporting a college, Boulder has a lot of the food you’d expect students would like/can afford. This marathon proves that they’re a well-fed bunch.

The Six Taste Food Marathon

September 15, 2011

Six Taste Food Tours has got it down. They are an organized food marathon company who, in a very short time, have established themselves as the preeminent food tour group in LA. Their restaurant walks are guided by pros who specialize in the neighborhoods that they traverse daily. They do a dumpling marathon that includes J.J. Bakery, Din Tai Fung, Sinbala and more. Their Santa Monica marathon covers Rockenwagner Bakery, Tudor House, Bar Pintxo and other stops. They also do Hollywood, Downtown, Thai Town, Little Tokyo and New Chinatown (the SGV).

I gave them the task of creating a food marathon of off the beaten path places that they don’t typically feature on their tours. This lead to Las Tunas Drive in San Gabriel, where I met Jeff and Mike. Jeff owns Six Taste and embodies the food marathon spirit.

The first stop was Taiwanese breakfast at Si Hai RestaurantThis place is a locals favorite without a letter of English on the front window.

A common breakfast item in China is hot soy milk. While most people drink it out of a cup, in Taiwan it’s served in a bowl. The sweet version starts off plain and you add sugar until it satiates your diabetes tooth. The savory version sounds scary, with vinegar that curdles the milk, pork and mustard greens.

Pork belly buns are very popular right now, with Flying Pig making them their featured item. As a kid Mike called these pacman, as the dough looks like an open mouth chomping on pork belly, They’re much bigger than anything I’ve seen on a food truck. Mustard greens are a staple of Taiwanese cuisine and would reappear throughout the marathon. They add tang, crunch and a rare dose of vegetables to the starchy, meaty dishes.

There are a number of breakfast burrito-style scallion omelets. They are wrapped around fried dough, which seems like a hangover cure to me. Nothing wrong with that.

In the same strip mall, Cathy’s Bakery is packed with sweet and savory buns, rolls, tarts, cakes and cookies.

I couldn’t bring myself to do it that early in the marathon, but the potato salad roll looked like the perfect football tailgate heartstopper.

Next up was Shanghai cuisine from Southern Mini Town. Yes, the name is a fantastic example of humorous direct translation from Chinese to English. They probably meant Southern Village, but I would have gone for Sparsely Populated Rural Municipality. Maybe it wouldn’t fit on the sign…

As we sat surveying the menu Mike explained that the waitresses were speaking a different dialect than the table next to us, and they were speaking a different dialect than the table next to them. The cultural melting pot of LA extends to all parts of the city.

May favorite dish of the whole marathon was the seaweed fried fish. It’s like Chinese fish and chips without the chips. The batter has seaweed in it giving it a green hue and salty crunch.

The dumplings were sweeter than Mama’s Lu, Dean Sin World and Din Tai Fung. I still like Dean Sin World’s best.

The Shanghai rice cakes fall short of Mama’s Lu’s, BUT Southern Mini Town has a different style that we didn’t order. It’s not a good idea to order two of anything on a food marathon especially not sticky, dense rice cakes.

The boiled chicken was bland and no amount of sauce could save it.

Moving on to the spiciest stop of the marathon, we got Szechwan cuisine at New Chong Qing.

Their house specialty broiled chili fish comes bathed in a cauldron of spice.

I liked it but always get lazy about picking through fish bones. Maybe I’m spoiled. Any struggle with bones was curtailed by enthusiasm with how many peppers could be applied to each bite.

The dan dan noodles were excellent. It lead to a discussion about Dai Ho and the noodle nazi. Rumor is that the owner was such a tyrant behind the counter that one of his customers beat him up. Since then he’s a bit nicer, but not exactly welcoming. I can’t wait to try it.

Just for good measure we ordered some pork belly which was good.

I didn’t tell Jeff and Mike but on the way home I stopped at Tasty Noodle House.

I love their pork bao and couldn’t leave the neighborhood without them.

The other suggestions for next time were the egg rolls from Golden Deli and Lu Gi, the hot pot place next to Si Hai. So as one marathon ends another one is created.

Six Taste is achieving innovative food exploration via food tours. They’re going to expand to other events as well. One such event is a Chinese Market Tour with Chef Sara Johannes from WP24. It’s a great way to learn about Asian cooking, ingredients and more importantly brands that are reputable. 99 Ranch can be intimidating but Sara breaks it down very eloquently.

I’m thrilled that Jeff and Six Taste are working so hard to further the food marathoning mentality.

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.

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.

The West Hollywood Cafe Food Marathon

February 23, 2011

If Four Cafe was in West Hollywood I’d eat there five times a week. As it’s not I’m left with other sandwich/salad spots that range from stellar to sub-par.

V Cafe on Melrose is one of the best. It’s very similar to Four, with a short list of fresh salads (lentil, brussels sprout, arugula, daikon, beet, etc.) and sandwiches (turkey, caprese, tuna, paninis).

The seasonal deli case, rotating cookies and good coffee make this the top go-to lunch spot in the neighborhood.

As Tender Greens is overpriced, a less expensive and less flavorful options is Fresh Bites on Sunset. The food was fine, it just didn’t have the cohesiveness of flavor or “freshness” if you will…

They can’t touch V Cafe in terms of quality, but if you’re stuck on Sunset it will suffice.

Simplethings Sandwich and Pie Shop is the newest addition to the West Hollywood cafe collective. They’ve claimed high praise on their high rent strip of 3rd Street.

I like their sandwiches and sides, but the big draw is their pie. The Missouri Mud Pie was great. However, the feeling I had at Simplethings was I’d rather just go to Joan’s on Third.

And I typically do for salads, sandwiches, sweets and cheese, because no one in the neighborhood can beat them.

It’s like an infinite sea of cookies, cupcakes, bready brilliance.

V Cafe
8164 Melrose Ave
Los Angeles, CA 90048

Fresh Bites
7950 W Sunset Blvd
West Hollywood, CA 90046

8310 W 3rd St
Los Angeles, CA 90048

Joan’s on Third
8350 W 3rd St
Los Angeles, CA 90048

The Gold Line Food Marathon

November 17, 2010

The 11 in 11 is the annual Novemberial food marathon thrown by Mark, Jason, Noah and Jeff. You may remember last year’s that ran from 11pm to 11am. This year it was reversed, during daylight hours. They decided to use the Gold Line this year because LA has a subway, in case you didn’t know.

I wasn’t going to do the whole 11 in 11, so I started my marathon with a pastrami sandwich at Langer’s.

Don’t tell anyone, but it was my first time.

The sandwich easily lives up to the hype. Exile Kiss’ review is a must-read and is the map for an all-Langer’s marathon in the future.

Back to the 11 in 11. Mark’s planning was impeccable. He factored in multiple restaurants per stop, lag time for a group of 30, proximity to subway stops and every other possible hiccup a marathon could encounter. I commend him for planning and executing a flawless marathon.

We met at California Plaza, took the Angels Flight down to Union Station, boarded the Red Line, transferred to the Gold Line and headed to Mariachi Plaza. The first stop actually had 4 restaurant options within a half mile of the subway.

I leaned towards La Placita del DF, as it didn’t seem like it was as filling as Birriera Jalisco (I’m also planning a Jalisco food marathon featuring Mariscos Jalisco, Taqueria Jalisco, Birriera Jalisco and others).

The menu offers street food from Mexico. We opted for a delicious crunchy chicken quesadilla,

huitlacoche quesadilla (that’s corn smut/fungus),

and platter of tacos. Guava aqua frescas washed it all down.

Michael Jordan (yes, the best name on the marathon) also grabbed a taco from Apaches for us to sample.

Less than a mile away we descended upon Al and Bea’s. The tiny burrito shack is famous, as later proven by the local that confirmed its exceptional flavor and quality over novelty (achem, El Tepeyac).

I didn’t need a local to tell me this place was good.

We devoured the lot, including a cholesterol-filled chicharron burrito that could have stopped the marathon in its tracks.



On we went, towards an odd, county fair type stand. Original Raspados serves deep fried Oreo’s, funnel cakes and their specialty snow cones.

The decor is artful. That’s the dining patio to the right under the Firestone sign with the rooster cooing in the back.

The snowcones are served in bathtubs, for $7.

The crowning culinary achievement of the day came in the form of a hybrid chili pie. They slice the side of a Fiery Hot Cheetos bag open and pour chili and cheese in, to create the pot of gold at the end of the gold line.

It’s just a shame they don’t dump chili and cheese on buckets of Cheetos too.

Back on the subway to the next stop, El Pollon. This Peruvian restaurant is a solid choice for chicken and other staples.

The group ordered a lot. Chicken,


shrimp and rice,

beef hearts,

We re-boarded the subway and headed back to Little Tokyo. The group split between mochi-goers at Mikayawa and beer-drinkers at Wurstkuche.

Having a beer connoisseur in the group is helpful at a bar. Jason directed me to a light Gouden Carolus, while he had a Duchess.

From Little Tokyo to Chinatown, we rejoined the group to get Vietnamese sandwiches.

Buu Dien’s banh mi are average-at-best. It’s worth the extra drive to the SGV to get good ones.

At this point I headed back home, not even full but with other plans for the night. As always getting a group of food-minded strangers together yields infinite fun. Thank you organizers for making it happen.

Check out Lesley’s post for more pictures and words.

The Kosher Food Marathon

September 7, 2010

Kosher food is often confusing to people. The rules behind kashrut were written in the bible thousands of years ago. Despite owning refrigerators, many Jews still follow these rules today.

…because Candyland isn’t kosher.

Briefly the rules are:

  • Foods fall into three categories- Meat, Dairy and Parve (neutral, neither meat nor dairy).
    – You can’t mix meat and dairy.
    – You can’t even mix the plates/silverware that were touched by meat/dairy.
  • Animals that chew their cud and have cloven hooves are kosher (cow, sheep, goat). Animals that don’t are not kosher (pig, rabbit, camel). Animals also must be killed by a specifically licensed butcher who kills them in a specifically humane way. For meat to be glatt kosher, in addition to the two above conditions, the meat must also come from an animal with adhesion-free or smooth lungs.
  • Fish must have fins and scales to be kosher (salmon, trout, herring, snapper). Fish that don’t have fins/scales aren’t kosher (shrimp, crab, lobsters, oysters, squid).

There’s more but that’s the gist. Ultimately, there are many reasons why keeping kosher sucks. Many people couldn’t imagine a bacon cheeseburger-less existence. Realistically though, you still can make amazing food and keep kosher.

The Minty is a master of food marathons. She organized this 11-stop beast of a marathon for us, and we set off for the Jewish Pico/Robertson neighborhood.

First stop, Delice Bakery

One of many typical kosher bakeries in the area, Delice is slightly newer and fancier. The crowd included Israelis, Orthodox Jews and people from the neighborhood.

The pastry case was packed with decadent cookies, cakes, pies and other sweets.

This was the first spot of many where service was bad. There’s no warmth and a slight feeling of disarray was pervasive through the process.

We had a bureka and tart, both of which were average at best.

We would find that over and over, kosher restaurants use crappy ingredients. They use Vlasik pickles, Costco sized vats of sauces and corporate fruit. It all looks nice but lacks the flavor that makes it special.

Second stop, Schwartz Bakery

Their pastry case is more old school in terms of content. More sprinkles and chocolate, less macadamia nuts and fig tarts. They also have a salad/sandwich bar and kosher take-out sushi. Service here continued on the bad side. We told the server about the marathon and she didn’t care at all. We asked for one of the pastries but were told we had to buy more than one of that particular type. We went with a boring, dry, basic chocolate danish. Next.

Third stop, Shalom Pizza

This place was empty, and we still were barely acknowledged upon entering.

The crust was fine but the cheese was bad. It tasted like cheap pizza but it was $2.25 a slice. It wouldn’t be the first time that we thought, “I don’t know how this place stays in business.”

A lot of kosher places have a combo of Italian, Mexican and Chinese food which each nationality would cringe upon tasting.

Fourth stop, Pico Kosher Deli

The service here was more lively, however there weren’t any Jewish people actually working behind the counter. I have no problem with that, as anyone can make a corned beef sandwich. It’s just funny to order chopped liver and sweet and sour cabbage soup from a shiksa.

The corned beef was solid- not as good as Brent’s.

The soups were good, the chopped liver was good. Overall, it was good but not great.

The hip Jewish grandparents liked it.

Fifth stop, Got Kosher?

Finally some friendly service. The girls behind the counter were passionate and it came across in the food. The restaurant has a horrible name, given that they serve gourmet Tunisian and Morrocan food and do great bar-b-que.

They were one of the few restaurants of the marathon that actually made their own sauces, using fresh ingredients.

The menu was varied and we chose two sandwiches:

Memphis-style pulled beef brisket with coleslaw. This is a sandwich that no one would guess was kosher. It could stand up to other BBQ places in LA.

The Moroccan Marguez Sausage sandwich was only the beginning of the day’s sausage eating. It was one of the best dishes of the day.

Sixth stop, Jeff’s Gourmet Sausage Factory

This place is the Kosher Peach Pit. It was packed with loud teenagers chomping on sausages. unable to sit still for more than three minutes. I chose the chorizo, which doesn’t match up to its non-kosher counterpart.

The Boerewors was a unique South African sausage, that was ok. Like The Minty said, it doesn’t compare to Wurstkuche or even Brats Brothers.

The veal bratwurst was the best Jeff had to offer. I’ll never argue with a brat…

Seventh stop, Glatt Kosher Subway

We didn’t actually eat here, because it’s the same old Subway ingredients- they just eliminate the non-kosher stuff (pork, cheese) and have shawarma.

Eight stop, Charlie’s Kosher Deli

This place is old school.

The decor is clean vintage.

The food wasn’t spectacular (an old potato knish and mushroom-less barley soup).

The brisket was their specialty, and from the sampling may be worth going back for.

I don’t eat gefilte fish from anyone besides my grandma, so I didn’t try Charlie’s.

Ninth stop, Beverlywood Bakery

This was the best bakery for the day.

From bagels to black and white cookies, cakes to pies and everything in between, Beverlywood is the go-to spot for your Kosher baked needs.

Tenth stop, Labels Deli replaced by Schnitzly

We were planning on going to Labels, but switched it for a modern fast food-ish Kosher spot called Schnitzly.

Schnitzel is basically milanese– boneless pounded meat (usually veal or chicken), coated with breadcrumbs and fried. Schnitzly is like Chipotle or Subway. First you choose from nine different breadcrumb coating combos you’d like your chicken breast to be fried in. There’s crushed garlic, chili peppers, dijon mustard, curry and even falafel seasoning. Then they make a sandwich based on your choice of toppings. As we were on the tenth stop we opted for Schnitzily Nuggets, which were dry.

Eleventh stop, Nagila Kosher Pizza & Salads

Last but not least was one of the best kosher pizza places in LA. Nagila is my grandparents’ restaurant of choice when we need something easy. If they don’t complain about it, that’s good news for everyone… Nagila has a milk side and a meat side, so it’s like two restaurants in one.

We kept it casual for the marathon, but it’s worth mentioning some of the fancier restaurants on Pico.

For kosher fine dining the options are The Milky Way (Steven Spielberg’s mom’s place), Pat’s and Milk n’ Honey.

Compared to non-kosher restaurants they don’t compete. As far as kosher goes, they’re better than you’d expect.

We also didn’t have time for Takosher, the kosher taco truck. The Gorbals also would have been a good ending for the marathon, in its totally unkosher assault on kosher food.

Speaking of assaults. We witnessed our first food marathon police standoff.

That family was watching as police shut down Pico at Robertson where a standoff was taking place. We couldn’t be bothered to find out the details as we were eating.

This was one of the first marathons where a majority of the restaurants were mediocre. It was well worth it, however to find the gem in Got Kosher? Now if they’d only change their name…

Happy Rosh Hashanah!

The Ceviche Food Marathon

March 9, 2010

So they’re remaking The A-Team… I hope that doesn’t suck. The least they can do is keep the line, “I love it when a plan comes together.” The Ceviche Food Marathon was just such a plan. Back at the Pal Cabron opening (in July ’09) Fernando, Javier/Teenage Glutster and I discussed running a ceviche marathon- simply because Fernando had ceviche the night before. Nine months later we managed to find a date that worked and headed all around town for citrus-y seafood, Peruvian and otherwise.

When Cork & Rind and I picked up Javier he told us his neighbors had been up since 5am making mole and tamales from scratch, and that upon our return we needed to try them. I can’t think of a better way to start a marathon then knowing a piping hot cauldron of mole and fresh tamales are waiting at the finish line. It’s like in a movie when the first scene is a glimpse of the big finale, then the rest of the movie details the build-up to that finale, only to show it again in the end in full detail.

We headed out to Mo-Chica to start the ceviche portion of the day. Mo-Chica is in a food court near USC that deserves its own one-stop marathon.

The ceviche is a modern representation, an Asian-Peruvian fusion version that features all the ingredients but in a sophisticated, refined form. The ingredients are top notch, with large sashimi-style pieces of fish. Mo-Chica’s sauce is thick, in direct opposition to traditional ceviche’s thin, juice coating.

Next we hit a dive called La Cevicheria that Eater recently featured in their “Dining on a Dime” section (which is where I stole the exterior/interior pictures from).

We opted for the Gautemalan mixed ceviche and the bloody clam ceviche. The Guatemalan was the polar opposite of Mo-Chica’s ceviche. It had shrimp, octopus and crab finely chopped in a broth of onions, cilantro, mint, avocado and Worcestershire sauce.

The bloody clam cocktail was quite different. Not as much citrus, not very fishy- bold and refreshing, but not overpowering.

Third we settled into a booth at Los Balcones del Peru. This Jonathan Gold-approved Peruvian restaurant is a go-to for pre-Arclight dining.

Their version is the closest to what I think of as ceviche- bite-sized chunks of fish, shrimp, squid, two types of potato, acidic juice that requires sopping up and huge corn kernels. Their aji sauce should be bottled and served in cans in 7-11’s next to the Red Bull and Diet Coke.

Inca Kola, on the other hand, should not. Bubble gum-flavored soda? That’s as bad a combination as Mr T in pink zebra print tank top.

For the fourth stop we chose Natalie Peruvian because it was close by. The restaurant is an example of the most touristy restaurants in Peru, with Machu Picchu murals on the sign, wall, menus and chairs.

The restaurant was empty and dead silent- no music, no A-Team reruns on TV, nothing. Their thick aji was full of all the wrong flavor- the feta dominated the battle over the peppers. The fishy flavor of the ceviche was unappealing and was likely a sign of poor quality ingredients. It was like a bad film remake of an 80’s TV series (yes, I’m talking about you, GI Joe).

Instead of venturing further to Puro Sabor, we turned back for Javier’s neighbor’s mole poblano. This enormous turkey leg lay lathered in a dark, work-intensive mole. Most of the ingredients are fried before stewing for hours. The pasta was even fried, because why wouldn’t you fry pasta.

The black bean tamales were small and light. I used them to sop up every drip of mole.

Unlike the horrible endings to most episodes of The A-Team, the ceviche marathon ended splendidly.

It got us thinking about a raw marathon- sashimi, live uni, live sweet shrimp, raw lamb paste… So stay tuned for that.

The 2nd Gold Standard Food Marathon

March 1, 2010

All you need to know is the 2nd Gold Standard Food Marathon was better than the first one.

It was better because of the gold balloons, courtesy of Fred Eric/Tiara Cafe.

It was better because it was at a car museum and I love cars.

Most importantly it was better because it was bigger, and bigger always is better…

(speaking of bigger, that guy in the left foreground was enormous- he literally was 6’9″ it’s not just the camera angle)

As expected, there was a lot of meat and a lot of tacos:

From top to bottom there was Palate’s pork belly and pig’s ear banh mi with kumquat, pistachio and lardon, Upstairs 2’s braised pork with crispy leeks on a beet risotto cake and Jar’s pot roast and horseradish sliders.

From top to bottom there were Kyochon’s spicy chicken wings, Pollo a la Brasa’s tender but salty rottiserie chicken and Good Girl Dinette’s curry chicken pot pie.

From top to bottom there were beef cheek tacos from Babita’s, three types of mole from La Casita Mexicana and a vegan taco from Kogi.

Everyone did a really good job:

The health department did their job so no one got sick.

Jazz and the Jitlada girls did their job and brought the heat with their dry curry.

And most importantly Jonathan Gold did his job, bringing together the chefs who make LA special and the people who like to eat too much.

P.S. I predict Ricky’s Fish Taco’s will be at next year’s Gold Standard.