Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Petrossian


Caviar, truffles and foie gras. These three items are supposed to be the most luxurious, decadent foods to savor in the world. I think I heard this on the Food Network at some point. At any rate, I've always been fascinated at the thought of eating these foods and get super giddy whenever I come across it in menus. Damn, that's some awesome subliminal messaging that was conveyed in whatever show I heard about these three items on.

After reading about Petrossian at Kungfoodpanda's blog, I was looking for an opportunity to give the restaurant a try. There is another location next to the lobby at the Bellagio in Las Vegas, but I've never gone - the prices always looked ridiculous. But DineLA is a great time to try restaurants and I jumped on the opportunity. A reservation was made, but it turns out that we really didn't need it - the restaurant had enough tables available throughout the night, though there was not much seating space. About 1/3 of the restaurant is a botique selling caviar, foie gras and chocolates. Chocolates flown in from Paris, mind you!

foie gras ravioli, concorde grapes, walnuts, wild mushroom, noble XO vinegar

egg royale, scrambled egg, vodka whipped cream, caviar

squid ink fettucine, wild Californian sea urchin, curry, salmon roe

prime flatiron steak, foie gras, leeks, mushroom duxelles, truffle, beef jus

foie gras ice cream, raspberry jam, brioche, honey, sea salt

vanilla panna cotta, espresso pearls, cardamom shortbread cookie

Boyfriend had everything that contained foie gras in it - the ravioli, the steak and the ice cream. I went a bit more diverse with my meal, but passed up an additional menu offering of steak tartare with foie gras in favor of the fettucine. Which is delicious, but I really really wished I was able to try the tartare as well. And look - the espresso pearls are made to look like caviar and are even served in a caviar container! Ahh, molecular gastronomy magic. Service was attentive and friendly, and the atmosphere was regal but not stuffy.


After dinner we wandered to the front of the restaurant and feasted our eyes on all the chocolates. I mean, chocolates shaped like mushrooms and potatoes? SOLD. Vanessa,are you reading this - so many foods that look like other foods! Although a bit pricey at $2.50 per piece, we selected seven and I am eating them now as I type this. Heaven. The guy in front (I wish I knew his name!) was able to name off all the chocolates for us, gave us a piece to sample (the one that looked like a potato, since it looked so intriguing) and even popped in an extra piece for free at the end since we had only chosen seven and the box fit eight.

I'm actually debating going back on Friday for dinner again so I can try the steak tartare. That and the steak are both on the DineLA menu only, though the chef is contemplating putting it on the regular menu permanently since people like them so much.

Petrossian Paris Restaurant & Botique
321 N Robertson Blvd, West Hollywood, CA 90048

Monday, January 30, 2012

Mas Malo - An Xmas Party

Yes this post is way too late. Our company "holiday lunch" was held in Downtown LA, at the newly opened Mas Malo. I've eaten here during lunch a couple times and was not too impressed. There is a lot of flavor in the food, but I find it a bit small portion-wise and a bit expensive price-wise. I remember I had chicken with mole sauce (chicken was kind of dry) and a chicken torta (actually kind of good, but the portion was tiny). Also, I'm annoyed that the restaurant doesn't provide chips - you have to order them and they're kind of pricey. Pricey as in $4 for chips that are "fried to order," and you have to order the salsas on the side. They're priced at $4 for one, or $12 for a "flight" of three. Boyfriend ate with me once and raved about the al pastor. However, no amount of al pastor will convince me to eat here again WITHOUT it being paid for by work.

That being said, company holiday party fell into the "paid for by work" category. I think work agreed upon the place because they had open bar the entire time - but was limited to margaritas, sangrias and beer. I don't even really drink and I felt this was a cop-out, especially since that's what our admins were originally sold on.

Tijuana caesar (hearts of romaine, pepitas, japalenos, red rashish, cotija cheese)

huachinango al mojo de ajo (red pacific snapper, habanero white wine garlic butter)

grilled carne asada (marinated steak, cucumbers, green onion)

flan (Mexican egg custard, burnt sugar)

Mexican hot chocolate cake (that's me! with my misspelled name)

Please excuse the blurry pictures. We were in an underground portion for private parties and it was pretty nice and comfortable, but definitely lacking a lot of lighting. We had another choice for the entree as well, but I forget what it is now. They also served large bowls of red beans mixed with rice, which was kind of meh and flavorless. The red snapper was very soft, but all in all, not impressed. The only thing that was absolutely delicious was the Mexican hot chocolate cake. So good, and it's not even on the regular menu!

Another good thing about having work pay and it being a party was that we had a variety of salsas! They are finely crafted but I would defnitely not pay $4 for a 1/4 cup portion of salsa. At one point, one table asked for more chips and were told that the restaurant was out of chips. When pressed that this was most likely impossible, chips were grudgingly brought to the table. But when asked for more salsa to go with the chips, they once again said that they were out of salsa. And never came back to the table.

Why would a restaurant name itself "malo" which basically means "bad"? Now I know why.

Mas Malo
515 W Seventh St, 1st Floor, Los Angeles, CA 90017

Friday, January 27, 2012

Il Fornaio


DineLA is here again! I'm sure any people have already been participating in some cheap dining options. Some places are definitely recommended (The Bazzar, Ruth's Chris, etc) but some aren't really worth it, in my opnion. Check out the menu prices and compare. Some instances you really aren't saving that much.

Since work has been crazy busy lately (and some people have expense accounts), a bunch of us headed down to Il Fornaio to grab a nice three course lunch and unwind a bit. I generally think Il Forniao is a bit pricey (I'm an Olive Garden or Pomodoro kind of girl if I'm going to eat chain Italian food) but on an expense account, I'm down! Since there were many of us, we got to order a few more items off the menu. However, I was shy about taking pictures of everyone's food.

complimentary bread

bruschetta al pomodoro (grilled Il Fornaio ciabatta bread rubbed with garlic, marinated chopped tomatoes, basil, kalamata olives)

salmone con spinaci (grilled salmon, organic baby spinach salad, red onions, mushrooms, toasted walnuts, warm vinaigrette)

conchiglie al pollo (shell pasta, chicken breast, broccoli, sun-dried tomatoes, pecorino cheese, roasted garlic, trebbiano wine)

zabaione alla fritti (chilled zabaione, fresh berries, bellini sorbet, fresh whipped cream, amarena cherry)

crespelle di mele (crepes filled with apples and grappa infused pastry cream, vanilla ice cream, caramel sauce)

tiramis├╣ (lady fingers, rum, mascarpone cheese, espresso, cocoa powder)

All in all a good time, though I'm still not quite a fan. The service was attentive, but it took us almost 20 minutes to get our dessert. Furthermore, the bruschetta was nothing to write home about - warm grilled bread, but nothing except chopped tomatoes.

Il Fornaio
1800 Rosecrans Ave, Manhattan Beach, CA 90266

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Chinese New Year - Year of The Dragon


Happy Chinese New Year! I say that even though more than just the Chinese celebrated yesterday as the start of the Year of the Dragon. I suppose the politically correct thing to say would be Happy Lunar New Year. And apparently it is supposed to be a very prosperous year as well. People are already planning and gunning for babies to be born this year. No babies for me, please.

We gathered at my parent's house (mah and bah) for New year Eve dinner. My mom likes to do hotpot. I've totally gotten Boyfriend turned on to hotpot, but he dislikes it at my parent's house. My mom makes stock from sctrach using prok bones (good) and there is a huge variety of items to cook (also good) but she likes to pre-cook a lot of the items beforehand (bad). So when you go to the table, in addition to everything shown above, the hotpot pot is already full of different kinds of fish balls, pork balls, shrimp balls, tempura, napa cabbage, firm tofu, fried tofu, fish cake, etc. This way, not much meat can be eaten until we kind of clear out the pot first. I tell her every year to just let us cook at the table, but she can't let the pre-cooking go.

In addition to the hotpot, we also do some traditional things. Like play mahjong! My dad has been playing since he was a kid and taught my mom after they got married. And man, my mom is an addict. She has a computer mahjong game and she plays every night. Most of the time, my dad can still destroy her (and all of us) pretty easily. He also talks mad hilarious shit during the games and is so good that most of the time he can see what's on the table and watch your moves to kind of determine exactly what tile(s) you need to win - you know, so he can withhold it. This year though, I did really really well. Brother maintains that I "don't really know how to play and I'm just lucky" but I think he just underestimates me over and over. I won $60; my mom ended up going on a crazy winning streak in the end and won like $100.

And of coure there are red envelopes. Married couples are supposed to give them to children, or basically anyone unmarried. My friend Vanessa gave me one because she is older than me (by one day!) but I don't think I have to hand any out until I get hitched. My mom tells us that she had an aunt that was never married, so she was still collecting red envelopes into her fifties. Man, that's living the life. When I was younger, some of my friends would literally collect hundreds of dollars - some almost a thousand every New Year.

Added to all the money exchange, there are reasons for eating this thing or that thing on the table. I'll try to explain them as much as I can.

Fortune Veggies (bottom right hand corner) - Back in the olden days, women used to carry some jades that are shaped like those bean sprouts with the large yellow head/bean at the top. Eating this every lunar new year will ensure that all your endeavors (eg businesses, relationships, work, etc) will go smoothly and in your favor.
Mustard Greens (bottom right hand corner, above the Fortune Veggies) - When left whole, mustard greens are shaped like a certain kind of jade. They symbolize fortune (in Chinese, they are called fa, which means fortune) and will bring a prosperous year.
Fried Whole Fish (not shown) - Fish symbolizes that you will have food and enough to eat for the entire year.
Steamed Rice (not shown) - Make a pot of steamed rice and everyone has to eat some. However, you are never supposed to finish the rice. This symbolizes that you have enough food to carry you over into the next year, and that you're not depleting everything you have.
Dumplings - Whether handmade (we had pork and leek this year made by Lynn) or store bought, dumplings are shaped like coin purses or gold ingots. To me, they are kind of shaped like traditional chinese hats. Anyways, they also represent fortune for the new year.
Sticky Rice Cakes (nian gao) - In Chinese, it translates into "year" and "tall", which means that they are also eaten for good luck and for kids to grow. We didn't have them this year.

Traditionally, you are supposed to pray at midnight or go to the temple, and then sleep at your mother's house. It is the one night of the year where a mother is supposed to have all her children under one roof, especially when they go off and get married, etc. However, a 5:3-am wake-up time ensured that I was NOT going to be staying up until midnight. The family prayed a little after 8pm and I went home. It was a good night!

Chuc mung nam moi!
Gung hay fat choy!
Xin nian quai lu!
Happy Lunar New Year!

Sunday, January 15, 2012

A Vietnamese Catholic Wedding


I'm at the age where a lot of my friends are starting to get engaged and married - I went to five weddings last year, and have about the same number this year. So crazy to think that in 2009, I had one wedding, and it was the first one of my close friends to be married.

Yesterday was a definite first with a Vietnamese Catholic wedding. After the church ceremony (which was a great work out - sit, stand, sit, stand, kneel, stand, sit, repeat repeat) we had a few hours to kill, and then we headed to the banquet hall in Westminster, called Paracel Seafood. The bride and groom had thirty tables filled, for a total of 300 people. And man, was it rowdy. Open bar from 6pm-10pm contributed to that.

For those of you who have never been to a "traditional" Asian wedding, there are a few key points to note:

(1) Hardly anyone ever goes to there ceremony. I'm not kidding. Prior to my work Senior VP's wedding back in 2008, I had never even seen a ceremony, except in movies. I had gone to wedding banquets with my parents, but that was it - people only go to the banquet.

(2) The dance floor is tiny, if it's even existant. Older Asian people have no interest in dancing. They just want to go and eat. And eat. And eat some more. There's no father-daughter dance, etc and only a couple speeches. This wedding was a bit more Americanized, with a father-daughter and a first dance, and some games being played.

(3) There is no registry. Traditional Asian wedding gifts is money, preferably cash. There is an unspoken rule of it being $100 per person, but if you're a closer friend or family, you can give more. I've heard of close friends giving $300-500.

(4) You WILL be full. There is no question about it. Most dinners consist of ten courses, and the majority of it is seafood. There is definitely no skimping out - Asians like to eat. For a culture that seldomly displays emotional feelings by saying "I love you", etc, the way to show appreciation and love is through food. I'm not kidding, the first time I went to an American wedding, I was shocked that there were so little courses.

So want to see an example of an Asian banquet hall wedding dinner?

house special 7 star cold platter (jellyfish, char siu pork, arctic surf clam, spicy jellyfish, assorted cold cuts)

shark's fin crabmeat & asparagus soup

stuffed crab claw

filet mignon & asparagus

house special baked lobster

peking duck

whole fried fish

yang chow fried rice

dessert - fruits

There was some dancing at the end from the oyunger crowd but once the fruit was consumed at most tables, the older people just booked right on out. There's no really staying to linger and talk, etc. Fruit = finished. They served wedding cake after while but more than half the people weren't around anymore to eat it.

Only nine people were at our table and one of them was a vegetarian so needless to say, we had A LOT of food to go around. I think I ended up eating the equivalent of half a lobster. Not that I'm complaining - it was really good. The fried rice at the end is traditional to show that you will NOT leave their wedding hungry. If you consume all the previous courses and still can eat all the fried rice (most people at this point are too full to eat it so there's a lot of rice for whoever is still hungry) then mad props to you.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Honey Garlic Spareribs


A long time ago there was a mad stampede at 99 Ranch market because spare ribs were on sale for $1.79. Since I already had to get some other meats, I took advantage of the opportunity and bought extra spare ribs. I made them Asian-cinnamon style and since Boyfriend attacked them like he was a starving wildebeest, I went back to 99 Ranch to brave the lines again and buy some more for the freezer.


This time, I went with a more Americanized route. I dislike the idea of using bottled barbeque sauce, or even ketchup/catsup on the ribs. Ribs are good in themselves and have plenty of fat, so the thought of adding all that additional sodium and preservatives is distasteful to me. Luckily, the internet will give you anything you ask for and with a lot browsing, I tweaked around to come up with the recipe below.


Honey Garlic Spare Ribs
adapted from About.com Southern Food

2 pounds pork spareribs, cut in serving-size pieces
kosher salt, pepper and garlic powder
1/4 cup honey
1.5 Tbsp cider vinegar
2 Tbsp soy sauce
3 cloves garlic, minced

Preheat oven to 325degrees. Line a 9x13 pan with layers of aluminum foil to avoid a messy cleanup. Boil a large pot of water. Rinse the ribs and simmer for 10 minutes. In a saucepan, combine honey, vinegar, soy sauce, and garlic. Bring to a boil; reduce heat and simmer for about 5 minutes.

Drain spareribs and arrange in a single layer in the baking dish. Season with a dusting of kosher salt, garlic powder, and pepper. Drizzle honey mixture evenly over spareribs.

Cover with aluminum foil and bake for an hours. Uncover ribs, flip over carefully with tongs (they may be falling apart a bit), cover again and bake for another hours. Repeat this process, baking for a total of four hours.

To finish, remove foil and allow ribs to cook for 10 minutes. Flip carefully (they will be totally falling off the bone at this point) and bake for a final 10 minutes.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

A Day In Silverlake - Intelligentsia & LAMill


The day after New Years found me in Silverlake, getting my car detailed. I purchased my very first car with my very own money on November 16, 2006. I was so proud of myself - it was my money, I didn't even take my parents with me to the dealership (actually they didn't even know and were out of the country), the car was black, fast, and had heated AND air conditioned seats. Never again would a girl wear shorts in the summer and have to sit on hot, burning leather seats! It was my dream car and I was determined to drive it until the engine exploded. Umm until an 18-year-old ran a red light while I was making a left turn (I had a green arrow, NOT MY FAULT) and totaled my beloved car. That totally wasn't what I meant by the engine exploding; I had wanted the car to die a lovely car death of natural causes, like being driven 500,000 miles.

I couldn't bring myself to buy a new car again. I would only have ONE new car in my single life! Whatever my future husband buys me is not of my concern. So I bought a used car - the exact same car actually. It had 1,000 miles less on it, and I pretty much got away with not paying anything out of pocket once everything with the insurance was wrapped up. Nice.

Needless to say, I haven't taken care of Car2 the same way I did with Car. Yes, those are their names. So when I got a Yelp deal for a waterless exterior detail, I jumped all over it. Then they told me it would take three to four hours to complete. So I explored Silverlake a bit in the meantime.


Intelligentsia was a few blocks away, so I stopped there first. Full of hipsters chatting and working on their books (there was a lot of scratching in notebooks going on), this Silverlake coffee shop at the Sunset Junction is a great place to see and be seen. Their coffees are supposedly good, though I don't drink coffee. I got a hot chocolate and a goat cheese herb scone, both of which were divine. They have indoor and outdoor seating, and people bring their pets along with them.


Oh no non-fat milk here, as a warning to my handful of readers. Only low-fat. If they're gong to make you a milk-based drink, it's gonna taste good. Why is there a hockey player on my cup - do hipsters love hockey? Speaking of which, there was a super cute one standing next to me for awhile for his skinny jeans were tighter than mine ... and his legs were skinnier than mine. Double fail.


Once the car was ready (it looked so shiny and new, like it just left the dealership lot!), I drove to LAMill for brunch, which is about 1.5 miles away. I totally love the atmosphere at LAMill and they have food along with their great selection of coffees and pastries. When you order coffee, whether hot or iced, they make each cup fresh at the moment. But like I said, no coffee for me. I settled for an iced tea instead since I had the hot chocolate earlier at Intelligentsia.


LAMill is a bit more crowded, but the seats are more comfortable and the food selection is vast. There are brunch items, pastries, desserts and lunch sandwiches/salads. They also serve wine. What a perfect place!

smoked salmon benedict, baby frisse, hollandaise

All in all, it was a relaxing day and I had plenty of alone time to do whatever I wanted, whenever I wanted. It was, however, a bit lonely. Someone come along with me next time! I want to be with someone when they try the Blanco Negro, which is frozen shaved coffee topped with ice cream.

Intelligentsia Coffee
3922 W Sunset Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90029

LAMill Coffee
1636 Silver Lake Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90026

Monday, January 9, 2012

Sticky Cranberry Gingerbread


I love the spices in gingerbread, but don't like gingerbread men/women/children/people due to the crispiness of the cookie. I've never had one that I've found to be satisfying, and generally am disappointed at the first bite when it crumbles in my mouth.

However, gingerbread in bread/cake form is an entirely different story. I found this recipe online after discovering two bags of cranberries still languishing in the fridge. There were huge sales for Thanksgiving and I couldn't resist buying them, though I had only used one bag for cranberry sauce. Now with one bag used and one still left in the freezer, I can make this sticky-pudding-like gingerbread in the summer and imagine it is the holidays again.


Sticky Cranberry Bread
adapted from Melissa Clark's "Cook This Now"

2 cups fresh or frozen cranberries (8 oz)
1 cup granulated sugar
1 Tbps water
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter
2/3 cup dark brown sugar
1/2 cup whole milk
1/2 cup molasses
1/4 cup golden syrup or honey
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 Tbsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp kosher salt
1/4 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
1 Tbsp grated fresh ginger

Preheat the oven to 350 F and spray a 9-inch-square baking pan with non-stick cooking spray.

In a small saucepan, stir together the cranberries, granulated sugar, and water. Stir the cranberries over medium heat until the sugar is completely dissolved and the cranberries form a sauce, about 10 minutes. Make sure you stir and don't just leave it there to do something else, as you don't want the sugar to burn into the pan (see below). You want about half of the cranberries broken down; essentially you are making cranberry sauce.

In another saucepan, stir together the butter, brown sugar, milk, molasses, and golden syrup over medium heat. Bring it to just barely a simmer and remove. Do not let it boil.

In a large bowl, sift together the flour, ginger, cinnamon, baking powder, salt, baking soda, and pepper. Beat in the butter-molasses mixture with a rubber spatula. Beat in the eggs and then the ginger.

Pour batter into the pan. Drop dollops of cranberry sauce onto the surface of the cake batter, like in the picture above. Drag a knife through and around the batter in swirls, to help spread the cranberries. Bake until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, about 50 minutes. Cool completely on a wire rack.


This cake tasted like Christmas! I was definitely pleased with how gingery and spicy it turned out. Perfect on the couch with a cup of coffee or tea. I think Boyfriend ate 1/4 of it right off, but it's almost a week later and the leftovers are still nice and moist. The sugar syrup from the cranberry sauce settle into the bottom of the cake and becomes sticky, almost like a caramel sauce. I cut slabs for my datacenter manager, brother, Vanessa and Hanna; I wonder how they liked their pieces.

I tweaked the recipe a bit too since I decided to make it so last minute; there weren't all the ingredients called for. I substitued golden brown sugar for the dark bown sugar, defnitely honey for the golden syrup and used half heavy cream and half skim milk instead of whole milk. Since I was tired, I basically eyeballed the spices and grated ginger - everything still came out fantastic. Also, no need to use and dirty the KitchenAid mixer, which is especially helpful when I'm baking on a whim.

And yes, I burned sugar into the bottom of my saucepan. As in, hard and browned around the edges, and stuck like crazy. I finally Googled "how to remove burned sugar from a pot" and got rid of it. I'll tell you here just so you don't have to Google it yourself. Put enough water in the pot to cover the burned sugar area. Add a couple drops dishwashing liquid and boil over high heat. While it is boiling, use a steel/metal spoon to scrape the sugar until it dissolves and comes free. It will steam like crazy due to the boiling, so make sure not to burn your hand while scraping. If you can find a long spoon, like the kind you use at Korean tofu restaurants, it would be best (as opposed to the shorter regular soup spoons).

Friday, January 6, 2012

Animal


This post is very late, but as in a previous post, December was just an absolutely insane month. Boyfriend made reservations for us to go to Animal on my birthday. I had been wanting to try the restaurant for a long time, along with its sister seafood restaurant, Son of a Gun. A restaurant based on meat and then another restaurant based on seafood? Yes please. Try to make reservations if you go, as I had tried once on a random Saturday night and was told the restaurant was fully booked and there was an unspeficied amount of time for walk-in bar seating.

chicken liver toast


foie gras terraine, date butter, saba


pig ear, chili, lime, fried egg

balsamic pork ribs, delicata squash, arugula, pecan

foie gras loco moco, quail egg, spam, hamburger

bacon chocolate crunch bar, s&p ice cream

sticky toffee pudding, mascarpone, orange

Surprisingly, we weren't too crazy full, even with all that meat. Other tables ordered a salad or some sort of vegetable to balance things out, but not us! Not only is the food good, but there is plenty of eye candy too - a couple of the waiters there were kinda hot. The table of girls next to us were swooning all over themselves and asking stupid questions to get addtional attention from one of the waiters. The restaurant gets pretty full but the atmosphere is lively. Rumor also has it that there is a good possibility of running into Jonathan Gold or Tony Bourdain. I'd totally geek out if that happened. Just thinking of it makes me want to geek out.

Animal Restaurant
435 N Fairfax Ave, Los Angeles, CA 90036