Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Wolvesden Part II

After being WeezerMonkey's plus one to the first Wolvesden dinner, I couldn't wait to go to a second one. It's like an intimate dinner party, except you probably know only one other person - the one who came with you. But throughout the course of the meal (which lasted 4.5 hours this time), you're able to converse with the people around you and get to know them. This time, one of the people we dined with was former UFC heavyweight champion Josh Barnett. He didn't even tell us who he really was until the end of the meal (so modest) but he was super cool; Boyfriend was impressed with his knowledge of cars and geeky pop culture from the 80s, such as who was the original voice of Optimus Prime. Boys.

If you want to sign up for the mailing list to attend a Wolvesden dinner, you can visit Wolvesmouth here. I even feel bad handing out the link because that just further lowers my chances of getting into another dinner! However, Craig and the rest of his staff are trying to hold more dinners in order for more people to experience these dinner parties. There were 16 seats this time at the table, as opposed to the 12 that were available at my first attendance.

corn soup, jack cheese onion japaleno canelé, cotija, finger lime

crab, brioche, pickled cucumber, mascarpone, pickled chili

rock cod, potato chip puree, chive, creme fraiche, tarragon, malt vinegar

celery root, blue cheese, celery, grape, almond, pretzel, peach

duck confit, butternut squash risotto, duck skin, duck cider

tomato, tomato H20, pimento cheese toast

rabbit, rosemary, brown butter gnocchi

musk melon, lemon verbena, creme fraiche, yogurt

squab, creamed chanterelle, squab jus, huckleberry, jerusalem artichoke

mexican chocolate cinnamon toast ice cream, green apple

carrot cake, burbon butterscotch, banana, pop rocks, brown sugar vanilla panna cotta

Eleven courses. Thankfully, I was not as destroyed as I was the first time, where I woke up the next morning STILL SO FULL. But only because I prepared better this time and had tea, 1/2 scone and ahi poke at 10am, and nothing else for the rest of the day.

everyone hard at work

extra helping of mexican chocolate cinnmon toast ice cream

Boyfriend was as full afterwards as I was the first time around. He shouldn't have had BBQ at 2pm when dinner was at 7:30pm. Amazingly, it was the first time he had squab and found it to be great. At the beginning of the meal when we were perusing the menu, he asked me what it was and I said "Kind of like pigeon?" In response to his horrified look, I quickly rescinded to "It's like quail!" and he looked way more relieved. Pigeons are the rats of the sky, apparently. Initially, he had some apprehensions about going even after I explained things in great, enthuastic detail and showed him pictures from the first time, but after attending this dinner, he can't wait to attend another one. I can't wait either! Pick me pick me pick me! I'll have to start creating fake email addresses to increase my chances of entrance ... just kidding! ... maybe ...

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Chef's Counter at Napa Rose

Southern California is an awesome place to live. More specifically, Los Angeles is an awesome place to live. Super diverse, and more importantly, you are within an hour's drive to a bunch of amusement parks: Knott's Berry Farm, Six Flags Magic Mountain, Raging Waters, Universal Studios Hollywood, Legoland (I still haven't gone yet but I really want to) ... and the granddaddy of them all, Disneyland! Sad to say I have no annual pass like many of my friends do, but they live in Orange County and sometimes when they're bored at night, they just go to Disneyland for dinner and to watch the fireworks. If I lived a bit closer, I'd love to do that too! Alas, by the time I get home from work and drove down to Disneyland, it would be 7pm at best, in the most favorable traffic conditions.

However, my Disney-enthusiast friends wanted to have dinner at the Chef's Counter at Napa Rose. Seated right at the counter, you watch the chefs work, and see the dishes being garnished and sent to the dining room. Executive chef Andrew Sutton will approach and inquire about any allergies and what the diners particularly like; he then creates a multi-course menu on a whim with an emphasis on seasonal ingredients. The first few courses were two different items, so we could each share with the person next to us, but the entrees and desserts were four different items for four people. There was a lot of plate swapping going on!

view from the counter seating

nicely decorated butter

parmesan crisps, onion herb rolls

Chef Sutton visiting the counter

amuse bouche

1a - octopus cooked in red wine, yellowtail sashimi japanese style

1b - smiling tiger salad, twice cooked beef, lobster tempura

2a - sea scallop, lemon lobster vanilla sauce

2b - hawaiian ono, salsa verde, apple jalapeno onion tartar sauce

3a- hatch chili stuffed with wild boar, applewood smoked bacon, fig

3b - steak tartare, poached quail egg, mustard sauce, Cinderella pumpkin (!!) fries

4a - duck confit, figs, roast corn

4b - pork, bacon lardon, corn pudding, snap peas

4c - duck breast, orange

4d - beef

5a - apple charlotte, rosemeary pecan ice cream

5b - chocolate cake pop, chocolate bar

5c - crème brûlée, berries

5d - flan, mini crescent rolls

Sitting at the Chef's Counter was a great expereince, especially to watch how a chef runs his kitchen. He also stopped to talk to us at several points thoughout the night and ask how we were enjoying our dinner. At one point, Chef Sutton was disappointed the quail eggs for the steak tartare were overpoached - he sent the plates back for a re-do and further scolded the chefs for not taking the time to cut extra green onions for garnish. He didn't go all Gordon Ramsey on them either, just told them that it wasn't up to standards. He certainly takes pride in sending out only top-notch dishes from his kitchen.

a cleaned and emptied kitchen

Service was great and not intrusive at all. Our meal took so long (3.5 hours!) that we closed down the restaurant/kitchen. However, we never once felt rushed and were encouraged to take our time. Our waiter even offered to take group pictures for us at the end, though I'm sure he was aching to get home. Disney certainly is magical!

where is the Pixar winery?!

Napa Rose (Grand Californian Hotel)
1600 S Disneyland Dr, Anaheim, CA 92802

Monday, September 26, 2011

The Water Grill

It was a full eating weekend. Vendor lunch on Friday, followed by dinner at Napa Rose in Disney's Grand Californian Hotel on Friday night. Saturday tea at the Tranquil Tea Lounge in Fullerton, followed by a second Wolvesden dinner. The first dinner destroyed me.

Water Grill is a Michilin-starred seafood restaurant located in Downtown Los Angeles. Amanda, from a couple seasons of Top Chef past was the sous chef there. Though I've heard a lot about it, I've never had an opportunity to go. My manager and I had a vendor lunch and we tried going to Bottega Louie, but the wait was too long. We treked a block and a half down to Water Grill, and were seated immediately in a mostly empty restaurant. Rumor has it that it is an "old people place" and what with the prices and decor, I'm not too surprised.

choice of bread - this is olive

oyster accompaniments

kumamoto and chincoteague bay

line caught pacific swordfish, peppadew hummus, pomegranate cous cous, mint yogurt sauce

yellowfin tuna nicoise, white anchovy, haricot vert, crispy/runny egg

new england lobster roll, traditional style, house cut french fries

vermont maple pudding, creme fraiche, fleur de sel, pecan shortbread cookies

I was more impressed than I thought it would be. The lobster roll had what seemed like an entire lobster in it, and was nicely dressed in a crisp on the outside soft on the inside roll. And the oysters were amazingly fresh and flavorful. I didn't have the other two entrees, but the only thing slightly lacking was the dessert. The pudding was a bit too soft and runny, and the fleur de sel could have been more evenly distributed. Can't wait to come again for lunch during DineLA - now that I told my coworker Sona it was good, she is willing to make a visit.

The Water Grill
544 S Grand Ave, Los Angeles, CA 90071

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Herb Rubbed Chicken Drumsticks

September is the end of barbecue season ... unless you live in Southern California. It's pretty much a given that we are able to fire up the grill any time of the year, what with the weather we have. A couple weeks ago, I went to a pool party where a girl brought great, flavorful drumsticks for the grill. It was so good that I tried adapting the recipe at home, with amazing success. Use your grill or oven! Easy to make and quick, the leftovers are also great cold from the fridge, or chopped into a salad. Use different blends of herbs, depending on what you have in the cabinets.

Herbed Rubbed Chicken Drumsticks
Serves 4

8 chicken drumsticks
1 Tbps olive oil
Salt and pepper
Cayenne pepper
Garlic powder

Herb Rub:
1 Tbps dried basil
1 Tbps Herbs de Provance
1 Tbps dried oregano
1 Tbps dried thyme
1 Tbps dried rosemary

Preheart grill, or preheat oven to 375 degrees. Mix herb rub together in a bowl, crush together with fingers to release aromas.

Wash chicken and pat very dry. Toss to coat with olive oil, then season with salt and pepper. Coat with a light layer of cayenne pepper (more if you like it spicy!) and then with another layer of garlic powder. Coat thickly with the herb rub, making sure to press the rub onto the drumsticks.

Grill chicken until done, or roast in the oven for 35-40 minutes, turning once halfway through.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Sushi Zo

Amazing sushi at a decent price is hard to find in Southern California. When I was in Taiwan, we would often order sashimi, and they would kill the fish minutes before bringing it to the table. Sushi and sashimi is abundant in SoCal, but often times price or quality puts me off. One day, I would love to go to Urasawa, but at about $300 per person, I think I have to save up! Sasabune or Sushi Ike are my general go-to places but when Boyfriend had a friend in from Ohio/Fiji/Boston (he travels a lot) that wanted "good sushi," we took the opportunity to try Sushi Zo.

Located in an unassuming strip mall, Sushi Zo is Michilin-starred and supposedly a good second choice to Urasawa. Priced a bit higher than Sasabune or Sushi Ike, the restaurant had many choices that were new and exotic.

miso soup starter

kumamoto oyster

tuna sashmi

uni with squid noodles

halibut (salt & lemon)

albacore (ponzu sauce)

Spanish mackrel



medium toro (chutoro?)


amberjack (chili pepper & lemon)

golden-eyed snapper

Seattle black cod (vinegar miso)


black snapper (truffle salt)

sea perch

yellow striped jack

giant clam (salt & lemon)

baby tuna

monkfish liver

red snapper

uni and salmon roe

salmon with kelp

sea eel

toro handroll


halibut fin

blue crab handroll

ponzu juice

I'm glad I got to experience Sushi Zo but I think my heart is still with Sasabune, although I'm pretty sure that one day it will be replaced with Urasawa. The kumamoto oyster, uni and squid noodles, albacore, Spanish mackrel, scallop, golden-eyed snapper, black cod, giant clam, uni and salmon roe, amaebi and halibut fin were stand-out dishes. At the end of the meal, Boyfriend was feeling pretty full so I happily ate his amaebi for him and the fresh crunch was fabulous.

However, the cuts of fish were also about 2/3 the size of other restaurants, making for a higher bill at the end since we had to eat more! Also, interacting with the sushi chef is one of the best parts of omakase, and that was lacking here. The sushi chef only served us a handful of dishes; the waiter and waitress served us the rest. I like interactions with the chef, so this was a bit of a turn-off, and was part of the reason why I was not a fan of Sushi Nozawa (that and the fact that he makes you eat two pieces of everything, this limiting the opportunities to try a larger variety of items).

Sushi Zo
9824 National Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90034