Taking Notes

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A taste for Champagne, other sparkling wines at fall party — LA Times, November 16, 2013 (Hourie, me and Julian at Jill’s)

A taste for Champagne, other sparkling wines at fall party — LA Times, November 16, 2013 (Hourie, me and Julian at Jill’s)

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Cheese In a Cheeseburger: The Yellower The Better


Burger at Holeman & Finch

I cut into a Juicy Lucy burger last week, and all of this golden-yellow cheese burst out of the burger meat. It oozed, extending off the plastic knife that initiated the attack. This is easily the most exciting part of a Juicy Lucy burger.

But I can get that kind of yellow cheese, very easily, in an In-N-Out double-double.

I can also get that kind of cheese at Holeman & Finch in Atlanta — which is the very true burger I was longing for after eating Juicy Lucy’s. I don’t wrestle for the just-24 of these double-meat cheeseburgers available for post-10PM play. The burger is limitless during Sunday brunch — and what better vehicle to circumvent last night’s tomfoolery at the Octopus Bar. It’s pictured above, the beautiful thing.

Holeman & Finch, 2277 Peachtree Rd. NE, Atlanta

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Girls Eat Crazy Gizzards At Bestia (January 22, 2013)

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I’ve been going to Bestia with slight-figured chicks. We sit at the pizza counter, watching dozens of pies go in and out of the wood-burning oven, and upon departure, our manes elicit the aroma of well-enjoyed cigarettes.

What’s been enjoyed, in reality, is a barrage of Italian fare — what Mr. Gold is calling “just-right cooking,” and Besha is claiming that “Bestia Does It Best.” And there is, of course, that possibility that you’re visiting just for Genevieve’s sweet stuff. (Sweet-thing Emily, whom I trust on all things sugar, couldn’t quit the salted-caramel chocolate budino tart.)

I went for the salumi. That’s what arrived, above, a mystery of Ori Menashe’s house-cured stuff. Is an all-salumi diet too wishful, I dare not ever ask. This is, always, what I want to eat. A board of ham — and his friends.

With Emily, we savored:

grilled beef + pork meatballs — braised winter greens, soffritto
pan-seared octopus + calamari — puntarelle, fennel, mixed mushrooms
pizza salsicca — housemade calabrese sausage, ricotta, Brussels sprouts, chili oil
agnolotti alla vaccinara — cacao pasta parcels with braised oxtail, pine nuts, currants

With Maria, Shelley and Rachelle, we savored:

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pizza tartufo — confit black truffle, fior di latte, grana padano

and …
mussels al forno — spicy housemade ‘nduja, fennel seeds, preserved lemons
pizza alla ‘nduja — housemade spicy ‘nduja, san marzano tomatoes, mozzarella
spaghetti mancini — squid ink and mullet bottarga, garlic, calabrian chile
(again) agnolotti alla vaccinara

but best of all:

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pan-roasted chicken gizzards — roasted beets, belgian endive, aged capra cheese

These gizz’s be crazy.

Bestia: to be continued.

Bestia, 2121 7th Place, Downtown LA’s Arts District

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Rediscovering Noodle Soup, Wontons And the Chinese Like (Jan. 11, 2013)

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Growing up, for a few brief years, I ate a fair diet of Chinese. A couple of trips to Hong Kong; nostalgic brunch fare as dictated by surly dim-sum ladies; wonton noodle soup a handful of times a week — simple father-daughter dinner dates in the early evening. We conversed in Cantonese, in secret it seemed, because I spoke it with nobody else.

It’s been a lifetime since I’ve eaten Chinese food in any kind of regular way. And now I want dumplings.

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In Los Angeles, the SGV, or San Gabriel Valley, has dumplings — and much, much more. Me navigating it on my own would be a sad, helpless look, but luckily, I’ve noodled my way in with the help of some friends.

Pictured first: Dai Ho's awesome, wholesome bowl of beef stew noodle soup. The broth is rich. Digging up its egg noodles with a pair of disposable wooden chopsticks doesn't, at all, lend itself to graceful eating. (I devastated Cathy by splashing red soup all over my light-colored sweater.) I used the provided little plastic spoon in earnest, but ….

Below the bowl are Dai Ho’s spicy wontons, to which we agreed to simply call them “funky.” In a Burmese way.

Traveling tip: Don’t go here on a Monday — or a minute after 3PM any day — or you’ll be sorry.

Dai Ho, 9148 Las Tunas Dr., Temple City

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Officially a Tradition: The 2nd Annual Baking Of Fried Chicken Cupcakes For New Year’s Day (Jan. 1, 2013)

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I cannot remember its true moment of eureka, but I’ve long settled into the idea of fried chicken cupcakes. No one would argue against me, obviously, being born to eat fried chicken cupcakes, but it astonishes even me that I would ever bake the little suckers — two New Year’s Days in a row.

I bake, almost never, but me baking fried chicken cupcakes elicits such an of-course-she-would kind of address.

If you Google it with a little bit of purpose, you’ll find a recipe for it, waffle-inspired, via a woman from Atlanta, Georgia — which is where I grew up — so I trust her specs.

To be clear, these are waffle-inspired yellow buttermilk cupcakes coated in maple syrup-buttercream icing. She tops hers with a bite of waffle + a Chick-Fil-A nugget.

I topped mine with little chunks of LA’s fried-bird finest: Honey’s Kettle. I also stuffed each cupcake with a nugget — after a quick dunk in maple syrup. A little sprinkle of salt won’t make you mad either.

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There’s me, above, New Year’s Day in 2012. I bring them to Claire's (she grew up in Atlanta, too!), who fetes the new year annually with a delicious version of her mother's Hoppin’ John black-eyed peas. We’ve happily married our traditions.

Get your mitts on the recipe here.

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2012: Year in Food Review | The Only New Restaurant That Made My H(e)art Swell

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A life struggle I might be the only one talking about is choosing favorites. Finding “the best.” Declaring what’s “best.” But, over the years, I started to believe — in my own gut(s).

I get asked, very often, where I like to eat. My go-to ammo — three very different restaurants — all suffice three requirements:

(a.) The food is delicious enough to eat every day.
(b.) I feel welcome — not embarrassed — to eat here every day.
(c.) When I’m here, I feel alive. A little sexy. Maybe to eat here every day.

While all three of the following restaurants meet all of the above, point (a.) best fits The Apple Pan, point (b.) best fits Kiriko and point (c.) best fits The Tasting Kitchen.

And now, I add another to the short ammo list: The Hart and the Hunter.

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I live nowhere near The Hart and the Hunter, but I’ve been for breakfast, just morning coffee, some lunch, a mid-afternoon coffee, and dinner — all of it too memorable.

Much of the food I’ve had, I’ve repeated; here’s to enjoying the following all over again, and tasting more and often in the new year.

assorted pickles of the day
chicken cracklins and hot pepper vinegar
butter biscuits, pimento + persimmon jam
smoked trout, boiled egg, pickled onion, capers, avocado toasts
brussels sprout and peanut salad, aged cheddar, bacon sherry vinaigrette
kale salad, apple, dates, pecan, sheep’s cheese
chopped rare steak, bone marrow, grilled toast
hanger steak, soft grits, mushrooms, snail, herb butter
apple dumpling, hooks cheddar, a la mode
chocolate and peanut butter crunch cake
lemon ice box cake

Congratulations, chefs Kris Tominaga and Brian Dunsmoor, for opening the Best New Restaurant in Los Angeles.

The Hart and the Hunter, 7950 Melrose Ave., West Hollywood

3

2012: Year in Food Review | The Best Thing I Ate All Year Cost Me Five U.S. Dollars In Mexico

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Getting away was near-impossible in 2012, but in spite of that, I carved out three days to sneak off to Mexico. The last time I snuck off to Mexico — that was three years ago — I snuck out of a little airplane some 10,000 feet up in the clear blue Mexican sky. I landed in sand.

This year, what snuck up on me was the best thing I tasted in all of its 366 days: La Guerrerense's tostada con erizo y almejas, or, a flat crispy taco shell buried in a thick layer of sea urchin, topped with too-fresh pismo clams + sliced avocado and important hot sauce. You eat this with a spoon. For five American dollars, you eat this standing up, along the food cart that just prepared it. This is Ensenada.

I can’t stop thinking of this trip. And, of course, I will go back with you anytime.

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Love nuggets — ostiones frescas o’ tempura at Ultramarino.

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Baller bowl of ceviche de pescado — Ultramarino.

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My name — all over the blueprints of the forthcoming plans to open BierLab in the former El Agave.

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#bestfishtacoinensenada — three shacks off Juarez, mostly shark, but just this one came on a purple plate — Fish Tacos Ensenada; Puesto El Fenix; Tacos Floresta.

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Fantastic neon.

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Adorable almejitas, clams grilled con gorgonzola — Manzanilla.

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Ostiones a las brasascon mantequilla de estragon y chiles — grilled oysters at Manzanilla.

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A beautiful, endless lineup of beef tongue beneath cactus bits — Manzanilla.

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Pin-pon! Pin-pon! Pulpo + almejitas — a little like Chinese food at Muelle Tres.

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Orange wedges + chile salt to complement mezcal — genius.

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Ostiones finished with chicharron de costillas — Mision 19.

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And a little lamb taco I assembled all by myself — Mision 19.

#ensenada #baja #mexico

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2012: Year in Drink Review | A Tipsy Pair of Bourbon Cocktails That Gave Me Bourbon Legs

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Nightshift — cold espresso, bourbon + fernet
The Tasting Kitchen, 1633 Abbot Kinney Blvd., Venice

A dubious achievement, no doubt, I got a little (too) used to kickstarting Sunday mornings with a brunch cocktail called the Nightshift (a nod to later, of course).

In 2012, I spent more hours in a bar stool at The Tasting Kitchen than anywhere else (my bed and my job notwithstanding). I hope I sound proud.

And for Thanksgiving, I traveled to New York with not a lot of purpose outside of eating doughnuts and lamb burgers with a half-dozen of the best friends I will know in this lifetime. Little did I know, I got to New York and was at the feet of its evolution in craft cocktails.

The drink I was most devoted to, called Tombstone Sunday Nights, belongs to Perla in the West Village.

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Tombstone Sunday Nights — cinnamon-infused bourbon, amaro montenegro, bonal gentiane, chile soy maple syrup, house pepperoni bitters
Perla, 24 Minetta Lane, West Village, NYC

And, a dozen other Honorable Mentions that left an impression on my liver — in the order I would ask for it.

Flower Street Sour
— amaro meletti, meti reposado mezcal, fresh sours, orange zest, egg white
Caña Rum Bar, 714 W. Olympic Blvd., Downtown LA
Bar Kitchen, 819 S. Flower St., Downtown LA

Mustachi-Ode
— nardini amaro, becherovka, bourbon, egg white, pistachio
Booker and Dax, 207 Second Ave., East Village, NYC

Everything Nice
— cachaca, cinnamon, sugar, honey, lime, muddled strawberries
Picca, 9575 W. Pico Blvd., South Beverly Hills

House Margarita
— vida mezcal, espolon blanco tequila, habañero, citrus, organic agave nectar, ginger syrup
Ted Perez private party, Venice

C Cup
— tanqueray 10 gin, cocchi americano, apple cider, lemon, yellow chartreuse, cilantro
PDT, 113 St. Marks Place, East Village, NYC

Marine Layer
— el dorado 3-year, lime, orgeat, cocchi americano
The Tasting Kitchen, 1633 Abbot Kinney Blvd., Venice

Sueo
— mezcal, strawberry, basil, lemon, balsamic syrup
Las Perlas, 107 E. Sixth St., Downtown LA

Chiapas
— chai-infused tequila, almond milk, allspice dram, bitters
Plan Check, 1800 Sawtelle Blvd., West LA

White Tiger
— batavia arrack, lime, coconut milk/sweetened condensed milk, absinthe, garam masala, orange flower water
The Sound Table, 483 Edgewood Ave. SE, Downtown Atlanta

Death in the D.R.
— dominican rum, lime, honey, absinthe, champagne
Sunny Spot, 822 Washington Blvd., Venice

Wide Awake
— gin, ginger (fresh + liqueur), lemon, islay scotch
Henry Public, 329 Henry St., Brooklyn

Sleepy Hollow
— london dry gin, amaro abano, chambery blanc vermouth, apple cider, spiced-pumpkin, lemon, egg white
Eleven Madison Park, 11 Madison Ave., NYC

2

2012: Year in Food Review | You Will Not Find a Sexier Yolk Than In Thee Slut

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Where it concerns an egg, I most prefer to eat it runny. The sexiest delivery of it arrives in a little jar, coddled, atop puréed potato, sprinkled with chives and grey sea salt. It’s called Thee Slut and it comes with a plastic spoon (and, fine, toast).

Get it at the EggSlut Truck.

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A high highlight of the year was when eK and I sat in the EggSlut Truck, greeting guests (well, just Jane Lynch) and coveting triple-X versions of The Fairfax, featuring marbleized eggs, chef/owner Alvin's favorite way to eat eggs by year's end.

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I sat on the engine and caught this shot of my best friend eating her Slut:

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In December, eK and I delivered a variety pack of Handsome Coffee drinks — via Nicely at The Hart and the Hunter — deliberately, in spite of the fact that the truck was parked on Fairfax Avenue (in front of another coffee shop).

I’m so proud of Alvin and his truck. And I’m desperately excited for his 2013.

EggSlut Truck at Handsome Coffee Roasters, 582 Mateo St., Downtown’s Arts District (Saturday and Sunday mornings) — follow @EggSlutLA on Twitter.

MORE READING: 25 Curious Things We Love About Los Angeles Restaurants

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2012: Year in Food Review | I Can’t Believe I Call This Breakfast

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Growing up, I had a blip of a diet that included strawberry Yoplait. Which later progressed to Dannon’s Fruit on the Bottom series. Inconsistent, nonetheless, since I preferred eggs for breakfast. Or steak.

It’s a lot hard to believe, therefore, that I’ve developed a(n) (un)healthy obsession with Gjelina Take Away's yogurt — combined, in a hipster dilly-dally sort of way (you're not in a rush, I hope), with seasonal fruit, honey, and killer granola. God help me — especially if I get there at 10:01AM and that business is sold out.

If I’m not spooning this yogurt into my mouth — eyes low in shame — I’m getting one or both of these toasts that, terrible truth be told, I could assemble, at home, blindfolded. Again, God … somebody — help me.

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(avocado! radish! cilantro! EVOO + salt.)

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(smoked salmon! cream cheese! pickled cucumber! capers + chives.)
(Oh, and a cortado.)

See you in line; let’s sit on a milk crate together.

GTA, 1427 Abbot Kinney Blvd., Venice