Friday, August 31, 2012

Post 91: Back at Bouchon - Another Fried Chicken Dinner (LA: Beverly Hills)

Bouchon seems to be a great gathering place for friends and family, so we chose to dine at this restaurant once again for a very special occasion... to celebrate the engagement of our friends Grace and Paul.  Because the previous ah hoc chicken dinner was so memorable, we thought it was a good idea to make a reservation for the fried chicken dinner during Bouchon's August Sunday suppers.  It ended up being an awesome choice for two reasons.  First, the restaurant helped us make the occasion extra special by preparing an off-menu item for the night.  And... dining two tables away from us was Neil Patrick Harris and his family! Yes, he was having the fried chicken dinner also.  Celebrity sightings are always exciting, but we made sure not to let NPH steal the thunder that night.

As always, we started off with some fresh oysters, but our attention quickly turned to our fried chicken dinner.  We could smell the aroma of the deep fried poultry before it even arrived at the table.  The crust of the chicken was deep with ridges, nooks and crannies... a sign that biting into the crispy battered shell would result in an earth shattering crunch.  This cacophonously crunchy chicken came with waffles and grits on our previous occasion but was paired with different accompaniments this time... a creamy mac n cheese, a fresh cole slaw, and warm cornbread. 

I enjoyed the cornbread the most because it had a real gritty texture from the ground grain.  Many restaurants that serve cornbread that uses finely ground cornflour rather than cornmeal, which causes it to lack a genuine texture that some people look for.  But if a gritty texture is not what you are looking for, a little bit of Bouchon's honey butter will take care of that problem.

As we feasted on our fried chicken, the server brought out a special serving of the restaurant's also famous fish and chips to the table.  The thick squares of beer battered flounder arrived with tartar sauce in a gravy boat and fries wrapped in newspaper... all of which was placed in an iron skillet.  The fish was steaming hot... soft and flaky on the inside and lightly crisp on the outside... firm to the touch and delicate to the bite.  It was a very homey way of presenting the fish and chips... like we were eating in our own dining rooms.

A celebratory meal cannot go without dessert, and since it was an extra special occasion... we picked three of them from the menu.  The first was the tarte au citron, which is an absolute favorite amongst anyone who has ever tried it.  The second was bread pudding topped off with vanilla ice cream.  And the final dessert of the triple team was a pair of freshly made fruit gelato.  Many at our table enjoyed the bread pudding, but nothing compared to the tarte.  I've ordered the tarte about half a dozen times now, and it is truly defies expectations.  It really is delicious.

Thanks, as always, to Stephen and the team at Bouchon for perpetually providing a charming experience at the restaurant.  My friends and I have been back for the fried chicken dinners four times now, and it has always been a memorable time.

Congratulations to the happy couple, Grace and Paul.  We can't wait for the wedding! Until the next special occasion, let's all get S.O.F.A.T.

ML - 20120826

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Post 90: The Brownie Comeback - Beverly Hills Brownie Company (LA: Beverly Hills)

When boba first made the trip from Taiwan to America, everyone was all over boba.  When Sprinkles debuted their creations, the lines for their red velvet cupcakes snaked around the store for what seemed like miles.  Now that Bobbie Greenfield, owner of the Beverly Hills Brownie Company, has perfected the classic American brownie, there are flocks of foodie fanatics frantically fighting for a taste of these baked treats.

So what's the deal with these brownies, and how are they any different from the brownies that we already know? Well, for one thing... these brownies have crusts on all four sides.  When I was younger my Aunt Jessica would make the best brownies... and my cousins and I would always fight for the four brownies that were cut from the corners of the pan.  We (and I assume everyone else who loves brownies) think that the crust is the best part of these little square treasures.  Well, it's a good thing that Bobbie has designed a top secret, special brownie baking tray to ensure that every brownie has an edge.  You can now save your arguments for more important matters (not that brownies aren't important).

Another cool thing about these desserts is that there is virtually every flavor imaginable.  On last count Bobbie has developed 18 different variations on the classic chocolate flavor.  From chocolate mint chip to poppy seed to mocha latte to gingerbread, there is bound to be a flavor that suits your taste buds.  Even at this very moment I'm sure that Bobbie and her daughter Amanda, the chief taste tester, are likely brainstorming the next awesome brownie flavor over their kitchen table.

I was invited into the store to meet Bobbie and try a few of her signature creations.  I brought my cousin Liz along... yes, the same cousin who I used to fight for over the corner brownie.  Twenty years later we have made amends and have finally learned to share our favorite foods with each other.  The two of us selected the simply classic, chocolate cream cheese, peanut brittle, red velvet, and the pure platinum.  Oh yes, and some milk, please.

Our first taste was of the simply classic.  It was a moist, decadent, chocolatey square of pure heaven.  Most of the brownies I've ever had have been so bread-like and dry that they look like cracks in the Mojave Desert.  Other brownies have so much fudge infused into them that they taste exactly like what they're made with... pure fudge.  Bobbie's creations have a harmonious balance between the traditional cake texture and the bliss of chocolate fondue.  Even though this was almost a completely new brownie to me, I still ate it the same way... I picked the chocolate chips off first and savored the crusty edges before drowning the chocolate confection into ice cold milk.

Because texture is so important to us, we pined after the peanut brittle next.  Who ever thought to cross peanut brittle with a chocolate brownie? Bobbie did.  And let's thank her for it.  The peanut brittle brownie is awesome.  There's ooey gooey chocolate lava running through the center of the brownie brick, and it's capped off with not just a regular crust but a volcanic eruption of sweet brittle that covers the brownie's surface area almost in its entirety.  Did I mention that there are actual roasted peanuts running through the brownie's crust? Hell yeah... guess what I picked off to much on first.

My favorite brownies were the classic walnut and the pure platinum, which came to life when a guest once asked Bobbie to make her a brownie completely devoid of cocoa due to her chocolate allergy.  This "un-brown-brownie" is made with vanilla chips, Madagascar style vanilla extract, and vanilla glaze... all of which are ingredients that hail from nowhere else but the good old USA.  Bobbie said that it's important that the ingredients she chooses are of domestic origin.  Right on! Let's buy American to support our local businesses and domestic economy.

The red velvet brownie is one that is worth mentioning.  Everyone is picky about their red velvet, whether it's in the form of cake, cupcake, or brownie... but it seemed that no one was more picky about their red velvet than Bobbie herself.  It took Bobbie 241 batches of red velvet before her daughter felt that she got it perfect.  Poor Bobbie... poor Amanda! Can you imagine being the chief taste tester for these red velvet brownies? My tastebuds would have expired, and my tongue would have fallen off.  I loved that the red velvet wasn't pure brownie cake throughout the center.  The butter cream cheese frosting not only adorns the top of the square, but it also sits in the center also.  With just one bite the sweet and tart goo reveals itself.  Props to Bobbie and her daughter... the 242nd batch deserves an award.

In case you're wondering what else The Beverly Hills Brownie Company serves up, they've got brownies in various sizes, brownie biscotti, brownie sundaes, and the best of all... brownie ice cream sandwiches.  If there's anything that can top ice cream sandwiched between two cookies, it's ice cream held together by moist, chocolate brownies.  Drool...

At the Beverly Hills Brownie Company, Bobbie gave me an insider's glimpse into all the sweat, energy, and tears it takes to build and sustain a first class brownie bakery.  I was thoroughly engorged with a sugar rush that left me high for more brownies.  Whether it's a simple chocolate brownie or a brownie ice cream sandwich, there are many ways that you can obtain your own sugar high.  One step into the shop, and you'll be mesmerized by all the different brownies staring right back at you.  And you'll definitely notice all the detail that Bobbie and her team at BHBC have invested into each individual brownie sitting atop the tiered counter.   Their efforts have helped this long forgotten about confectioner's delight make a blaring comeback... in 18 different flavors.  Until the next sugar rush, let's all get S.O.F.A.T.

ML - 20120819

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Post 89: London Olympics Opening Ceremony Royal Potluck

To celebrate the 2012 London Summer Olympic Games, I originally thought it would be fun to celebrate at a local pub and drink gallons of beer.  Somehow my thoughts of sitting on a bar stool and chasing Jameson with New Castle evolved into a British themed potluck with friends at my apartment.  This is the e-mail I sent out to my guests.  In case my poor attempt at Shakespearean English cannot be understood, colloquial English is provided in green.

HEAR YE, HEAR YE!  Listen up bitches.

From thine host to thee, the sirs and madams of Camelot, Arcadiashire and the Thames, might I trouble you to save the fifth day of thine work week for the royal potluck in celebration of the Queen's crowning athletes and the knights of the roundtable?  The awesome potluck to celebrate the Olympics will be on Friday.

Please grace us with your knighted presence and thine bountiful British booty at six hours past the time of the highest sun.  The jubilant stroll of our friends and foes begins at seven and two quarter hours past the time of the highest sun... sharp.  Please arrive around 6.  The Parade of Nations starts at 7:30 sharp.  Don't be late.

Details for the festive feasting will be distributed by the Royal Palace via electronic post by the hour of the Royal Prince's return from his laborious work in automotive data analysis with the peasants of Yorkorange County.  I will e-mail more details after I get home from work.

The invited guests have been knighted with the following names: Allison of San Diego Abbey, Catherine of Cerritobridge, Christina of Taipei Castle, Elizabeth of the Royal Family, Erin of the Southern Riverbend, Grace of Arcadiashire, Ken of the San Marino Cathedral, Ronbernie of the Land of Lettuce and Leprechauns, and Stephanie of the local district.  No peasants allowed.  These are the guests.  No assholes allowed.

The Royal Prince of Cambridge  Michael

And these are the dishes that the royal guests brought to the royal potluck.

Tea sandwiches by Erin of the Southern Riverbend,
a variety of finger foods (pinky up) with turkey and bacon, curry chicken, and sun-dried tomato... a dainty way to start off the night.

Sausage rolls by Catherine of Cerritobridge,
baked up plump American style as pigs in a blanket... maybe to show some national pride (USA! USA! USA!) before she weds Mr. Mulholland and becomes a Scottish man's woman?

Cottage pie by Christina of Taipei Castle,
a traditional British dish made of ground beef and minced onions topped with buttery, fluffy, mashed potato.  The lady of Taipei Castle used shallots as well as onions, grated carrots instead of chopped carrots, and zucchini to sub for peas (the lady of the castle hates peas).  And it was all simmered with a cup of Merlot.  'Twas bloody good comfort food.

Bangers and mash by yours truly, the Royal Prince of Cambridge,
using a fusion approach to the traditional English pub grub.  Rather than Cumberland sausage, I subbed in some spicy Italian sausage, and I simmered the onions using not only pinot noir and worcestershire but some soy sauce with a heavy dose of course ground black pepper as well.

English trifle by Allison of San Diego Abbey,
in individual cups with layers of pound cake, strawberries, bananas soaked in orange juice, and custard... homemade whipped cream and fresh blueberries adorned the top.  The clear cups made it easy to see all the colorful layers of trifle.  And it made it even easier to see all the ground beef and cottage pie stashed beneath the custard in my cup.  Christina of the Castle is quite the sneaky one...

Of course Ron of the Land of Lettuce and Leprechauns arrived with a little Olde English (well played, Sir), and Stephanie of the local district doused the potluck with a Jameson tea party.  The Newcastle and Guiness were good choices too.  Ah, and we closed the ceremony with some tea and cookies from Jessica of Arcadiashire.  We've eaten quite a bit of potatoes now, haven't we?

Although this is long overdue, we wish all of the olympic athletes well.  We will be cheering for the home team... USA! USA! USA! Until next time, let's all get S.O.F.A.T.

ML - 20120727