Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Event: Monday, July 29 - Tastemade's Love at First Bite (LA: Santa Monica)

Tastemade, a video making app for food lovers, invited food bloggers and industry cohorts to their studios in Santa Monica to attend a tutorial on how to get started with their new app for iPhone users.  Before the presentation began, however, we were treated to a glorious spread of food and drink prepared by local chefs and small businesses around Los Angeles.  Thanks to Alyse Gilbert of Tastemade I got how to see how they are "connecting the world through food."  It was Love at First Bite.


There were many wines featured at the event, including Truth be Told, which brought out a Pinot Noir and a Cabernet to share with wine aficionados.  However, the first drink that Celeste Perez, of Six Taste Food Tours and Empress LA, and I went for was The West Side Pisco Punch made with Peruvian Campo de Encanto.  It was impressively smooth... even smoother than the easy to drink Chamisul soju, a personal favorite.  It might be the reason why the bartender said that on one occasion he had finished an entire bottle by himself without even realizing it.  Impressive alcohol tolerance or just plain smooth liquor? You decide.


Our first stop on the tour around the studios was at the Cooking with WOW table.  Whitney Oakes Webster (ahhh... I see where she got the name) prepared an array of gazpacho filled into the centers of hollowed out cucumbers.  There were also row after row of colorful figs stuffed with folded curls of proscuitto, soft burrata, honey and garnished with vibrant, green basil.  They were beautifully presented, and we kept popping them into our mouths... to taste the different colored figs, of course.

Next, we hurried over to the Bean & Thyme kitchen to try some of their porchetta sandwiches that smelled like heaven.  Although delicious what really blew my mind away was the cauliflower sandwich.  Now, believe me, I would never order a vegetarian sandwich on my own accord... let alone one made with cauliflower, my mortal enemy of the vegetable world.  However, with a bit of melted homemade American cheese and some runny eggs through the center of the sandwich, Chef Paul Osher turned my vegetable world upside down.

Sharing with kitchen with Bean & Thyme was Bruce's Prime Pickle Company.  The Chief Pickler himself Bruce Kalman was on hand to share his curried cauliflower pickles with golden raisins, cucumber kimchi, and Bloody Mary asparagus with garlic, horseradish and dill pickles.  The cauliflower here was also mind blowing.  There must be some kind of magic in that kitchen, I guess! Thanks for sending me home with some of those cleverly pickled cauliflower.

Way across Stage C were sounds of sizzling that prompted an immediate dash in that direction.  It turned out that Gavin Mills, chef and owner of Mills + Company was grilling up some grass fed beef sliders.  The charcuterie master put incredibly flavorful and juicy beef in between the softest bread possible.  At the same time his wife Jessica Mills was spooning chicken liver mousse over crostini and topping them off with pickled blueberry.  Did I mention that the mousse was equal parts chicken liver and butter? Uh... mazing! Thank you Jessica for also sending me home with a jar of that luxurious decadence.


There is no such thing as a food gathering without dessert, right? Well, there was no shortage of dessert vendors at the event.  Celeste and I moseyed over to The Cheesecake Dude for some of the best bites I had all night.  Heather Kuklin (yes, she is The Cheesecake Dude) wowed us with three kinds of "totally awesome" cheesecake... a simple blueberry, Nutella banana, and the awesome maple and bacon.  Sweet, salty, and smooth all around, the maple bacon cheesecake was unlike anything I have ever tasted.  The Cheesecake Dude also made vegan and gluten free cookies that tasted nothing like the typical vegan or gluten free cookie.  Had you not read the sign that said that the cookies were vegan and gluten free, you would not have known.  But had you read the sign, you would not have believed it.

Down the stretch of desserts were the much talked about kouign aman, which described as caramelized sugar croissants.  Baked on Oceanview makes these mini versions of the traditional French pastries as well as mini versions of a seasonal summer peach pie

Also on site was also an old fashioned bubble gum machine except that it was filled with peanut butter and jelly macarons.  No coins needed.  We were also presented with meringues that were frozen with liquid nitrogen and when popped in would show us how to breathe like dragons.  What a way to end the night.

Thank you to Alyse and the entire Tastemade team for putting together this well organized and fun event.  It was great to see some familiar faces (shout out to Amy Shuster of Backyard Bite) as well as some new ones.  I'm looking forward to creating videos with the app and doing my part to connect the world through food.  Until the next event, let's all get S.O.F.A.T.

Check out my Flickr set for more pictures from the Tastemade event Love at First Bite.

ML - 20130803

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Event: Thursday, July 25 - Jack Daniel's Five-Course Dinner and Whiskey Pairing on Historic Queen Mary (LA: Long Beach)

Executive Chef Todd Henderson and celebrity bartender Eric Tecosky are welcoming all whiskey lovers on board The Queen Mary this Thursday for a five-course dinner and whiskey pairing by Jack Daniel's.

What has been called a "movable feast" will surely engage your taste buds with the five varieties of Jack Daniel's on site.  The five flavors that will be featured are Jack Daniel's Unaged Tennessee Rye, Gentleman Jack Daniel's, Jack Daniel's Tennessee Honey, a limited edition Jack Daniel's White Rabbit Saloon, and a specially branded Queen Mary Single Barrel.  The Unaged Tennessee Rye is Jack Daniel's first new grain recipe debut since before The Prohibition.

I had the ScotsFest multi-course meal and whiskey pairing with Chef Henderson back in February, and I can tell you that his food tastes like the homey meal had at the end of a long journey.  It's well worth it.  Tickets to this special treat are $115 per person.  Parking is free.  The event begins at 6 p.m.


Monday, July 22, 2013

129. Portland - Blueberry Bourbon Basil at Blue Star Donuts (Portland: Southwest/Downtown)

Not that I didn't already have enough breakfast at Pearl Bakery, but on the way out I couldn't stop myself from swinging by Blue Star Donuts for just one doughnut... just one.

On top of the almost obligatory maple and bacon hipster doughnut, Blue Star has some creative flavor combinations.  Have a craving for PB&J? Well, there's a doughnut with blackberry compote dusted with peanut powder.  There's also a red berry & rhubarb, a lemon poppy seed, and a meyer lemon & key lime curd... which is delicious, by the way, even after a 10 hour flight to Tokyo.  Oh, and don't forget there's an original glazed too.

I wanted one doughnut... just one.  I could only fit one doughnut in my stomach after already consuming the croissants and coffee from just 15 minutes earlier.  However, selecting just one delicious doughnut from a display of many delicious doughnuts was no easy task.  After much pondering, swaying from side to side, and a persuasive nudge in the right direction by Travis, the very friendly cashier, I pointed to the blueberry bourbon + basil.  I'm not sure what possessed the doughnut maker to create such an interesting flavor profile, but I'm very glad this person did so.  It is sweet, soft, and amazing-delicious.  The blueberry, bourbon and basil hit your tongue in that exact order... it is sweet at first, sultry next, and there is a bit of exotic tingle at the very end.  Yesssss... good choice.  And even better with coffee.  Black, of course.

Well, well, well... that one blueberry bourbon basil charmed the pants off my tongue with such conviction that I went back to the counter to stare at the other doughnuts.  Travis, noticing that I was loitering at the counter and probably creeping the doughnuts out, suggested that I take some doughnuts home with me.  "I'm flying to Tokyo in a few hours," I told him.

No problem! Travis said that these doughnuts last for more than 10 hours.  So I grabbed the passion fruit cocoa nib, the dulce de leche & hazelnut, and a meyer lemon & key lime curd in a box to go.  Taking boxes of doughnuts on a flight seems like a recurring theme for Portland now (post: Cursed by Voodoo Doughnut).  The passion fruit tartness and the crunchy texture of the sweet cocoa nibs makes for a whirlwind of amazement.  I believe it to be one of the best doughnuts I have ever had in my life.

The dulce de leche & hazelnut is good too.  Actually, it's delicious.  The dulce de leche glaze on top almost oozes out at you.  It looks firm and congealed, but it's actually lusciously soft and gushy.  There's a slight essence of Nutella to it but without it being too sweet.

My desire for just one single doughnut quickly turned into four.  This seems like a recurring theme as well, doesn't it? Time to pack up and go meet Ken in Tokyo! Hopefully he can help me munch on these doughnuts.

This concludes my second series on Portland.  The next part of my trip away from home brings me to Japan where I will be spending five days exploring and eating through the largest city in the Land of the Rising Sun.  Until then, let's all get S.O.F.A.T.

ML - 20130624

Friday, July 19, 2013

128. Portland - Pearl Bakery is a Treasured Jewel (Portland: Pearl District)

After tasting Pearl Bakery's brioche for breakfast at Bijou Café, I wanted to check out the shop for myself to see what other wondrous bread options they had.  I stumbled into the bakery on a Monday morning when plenty of people in the Pearl District were in a mad dash for caffeine.  I'm sure those who were waiting in line behind me didn't appreciate that I ordered the croissant... and then the other croissant... oh, and then a coffee too.  Anything else? A macaron too, please.

Of course I got the standard butter croissant.  But in an instant I longed for something savory too.  So I asked for the ham & gruyere croissant as well.  It had to be eaten.  And it had to be eaten with a coffee.  Black.  Always.  I took one bite of the butter croissant... it was flaky with just enough of that butter essence.  No margarine or shortening here.  Then I took a bite of the ham and cheese croissant.  A bit more firm.  Yesss, the cheese... oh, the cheese.  Good.  A sip of coffee.  My mind was darting here and there.  I ate the pastries the way I made my selections at the counter.  If only I could make my pastry decisions the way I make my decisions about my coffee...

The white, vanilla bean Parisian macarons were staring at me in the display case.  They really were.  They were staring at me with their little vanilla bean spots... and they were saying... you want me.  Eat me.  Now.  Please.  I could envision them blinking at me.  Yes, I wanted it.  I wanted to eat it.  Right away.  Yes, please.

So a single, lone macaron was bought.  And that single, lone macaron was eaten.  Mmm... fluffy and creamy and stretchy all at the same time.  These three little pastries were enough to make me believe that Pearl Bakery makes treasured jewels of their baked goods.  Yum, but my mind was darting again.  It was time for doughnuts.  Off we go! Until we meet again at the doughnut shop (in 10 minutes), let's all get S.O.F.A.T.

ML - 20130624

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

SOFAT Live - Tokyo Haneda Intl Airport, Boarding Gate 131

Konbanwa, everybody! I am currently sitting at gate 131 at Haneda Airport in Tokyo waiting for my Delta flight back home to Los Angeles.  There is still a little bit of time before we are bussed off to the plane, which is sitting on the tarmac somewhere instead of parked at the end of the jetway, so... I thought I would do some blogging.  I think this is the first time I have ever blogged live.

It has been just a little over three weeks since I left for Portland, Tokyo, and Taipei, so I'm very excited to get home.  After sleeping at the Hilton in Portland, the Westin in Tokyo, and numerous relatives', friends', and friends' relatives' beds, I am looking forward to sleeping in my own bed.  There is a saying in Mandarin Chinese that goes, "Neither a palace made of gold nor a palace made of silver can beat one's own doggie den," or something like that.  I overheard my Aunt Jessica mention it to another family friend, so I did the best translation that I could.

I wish I had a picture or two to show the scene at the boarding gate, but I guess I'll attempt some descriptive writing as a substitute.

It's 11:10 p.m. in Tokyo.  The smell of jet fuel has permeated the boarding area... not to the point of over exhilaration or nauseating displeasure... but just enough to bring some excitement into my bloodstream.  The captain and flight attendants have just walked through the gate.  An older head flight attendant, or what I can only assume from her experienced stature and demeanor, holds sheets of paper in her hand.  She is dressed in her bright, red Delta uniform while discussing something, I don't know what, with her Japanese counterparts who are dressed in white, short sleeved blouses with navy vests.  The tallest of the Japanese Delta staff picks up the mic to make an announcement in a language I only pretend to understand.

There are four flat screens over the gate counter.  Delta Sky Priority.  Delta Sky Team.  Los Angeles, 0:35, DL 636.  And the weather: Los Angeles, 68F high and 64F low.  What a relief.  It has been consistently over 90F in Taipei for the last two weeks.  I think I have sweat out all the sodium from the many bowls of lu rou fan that I've scarfed down.  Speaking of food... what should I eat when I get home? In-n-Out? Chipotle? Those are the go-to standards of the many Californians who have been away from home for too long.

The demographics of the passengers on the flight include Americans, Japanese, old, young, families, individual travelers, groups of friends, elderly couples, the well dressed, and me in my plain, white V-neck and flip flops... so everyone, really.

From the corner of my left eye, I see the red rising sun on the tail of a JAL jet and the edges of the orange Airport Limousine that is supposed to shuttle us over to the plane.  Only about 20 minutes more.  One last e-mail to Mom saying that it's only about 20 minutes more before boarding, and a post to Facebook.  That's all.  お休みなさい (o yasumi nasai)... good night.  Safe travels to all.  Until the next live blog post, let's all get S.O.F.A.T.

ML - 20130716(17)

Saturday, July 13, 2013

127. Portland - Breakfast at Bijou Café (Portland: Southwest/Old Town/Chinatown)

Good morning, Portland.  It's time for breakfast.  Still in the Southwest quadrant of Portland, Allison and I took a brisk stroll to Bijou Café to check out some of the interesting selections on their brunch menu.  Despite pondering over cowboy steak with chimichurri, pumpkin seed molé quesadilla, and their buckwheat noodle salad, Allie and I settled on some more basic choices.

Having dined at Olympic Provisions the night before, our infatuation with the restaurant led us to order the Olympic Provisions breakfast sausage & eggs.  Hooray for ground meat in an edible casing that was not bought frozen from the supermarket.  I mean... yay for fresh sausage.

We also ordered the French toast made with fresh brioche from Portland's very own Pearl Bakery.  See a recurring theme here? Fresh and local.  I like.  The house made berry jam was not too sweet and just tart enough to bring out the natural sweetness from the bread.  The toast itself was lusciously soft.  It actually didn't need any butter at all... but I love butter, and I love watching it melt and drip down the triangles of beautifully browned brioche.  If that isn't live food porn then I don't know what is.

Allie chose the cauliflower & black kale hash, which had a bit of a Mediterranean feel with harissa, sheep milk feta and olives.  We loved the potatoes, the bright colors of the vegetables and that they weren't overcooked.  And of course, the best part was the runny yolk.  That's morning sunshine in liquid form for you right there.

There were so many choices that called to us from their menu that we had to take some time to narrow the list down.  Good thing our server at Bijou Café spent a good amount of time with us to hash out our final selections based on our tastes.  I must say that there was great service from Portland restaurant staff once again.  Bellies full, it was now time for a walk to Powell's to examine the wide selection of books there.  Until then, let's all get S.O.F.A.T.

ML - 20130623

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

126. Portland - A Second Visit to Olympic Provisions (Portland: Southeast/Industrial)

Olympic Provisions impressed me so much during the first visit that I wanted Allison to experience the true, unpretentious food that it offered.  We came here for dinner after our brief pit stop at Clyde Common for happy hour.  Funny... because that is the same route that Chef Alex Yoder took to reach Olympic Provisions.  Just as it was last time, the service was sincere, and the food was beyond compare.  Even the bread, dipped in a dish of olive oil, salt and pepper, blew our minds with its delicious simplicity.

On this repeat visit to the restaurant that caused me to fall in love with Portland, we ordered the steak tartare again.  We were completely enamored with the skillfully diced beef, the petite drop of egg yolk, and the crisp crostini.  It was just as fresh as I had remembered it.  Consistently executed quality dishes like this is what makes for an awesome restaurant.  This is a must if visiting Olympic Provisions... or even Portland at all.

The mixed beans salad from last time gave me such a lasting impression that I convinced Allie to order some vegetables... at a salumeria.  Yes, I know.  But how could we resist? Nutritious, beautiful, and ever so fresh, the kale salad with thinly sliced radishes was a fitting complement to our meal.

One item on the dessert menu that we did not order last time was the salame de chocolat.  Yes, you read that correctly.  Chocolate salami.  But it's not what you think.  Or it might be exactly what you think.  It's smooth chocolate in the shape of a sausage with bits of nuts and toffee right where the fatty spots of a salami should be.  Genius.  Pure genius.  Along with the citrus marmalade and the salt and pepper shortbread... holy momma, this was devilishly delicious.  We particularly took a liking to the shortbread.  It was like a melt-in-your-mouth Ritz cracker... but even better.  Some would say this cracker was on crack.

To top everything off, we sneaked in a few small bites of some dessert that the staff was catering to a wedding.

Hats off to Chef Alex for his genuine food preparation, passion, and prowess.  Just in case you are expecting a swanky place, this is not it.  Don't expect anyone to place a white cloth napkin over your lap as you sit down.  It is just a straight forward salumeria, a glorified butcher shop of sorts, that makes food without fuss.  Olympic Provisions is for me what a day spa is for those working in corporate America.  Feeling stressed? Suffering from culinary depression? Chef Alex will give you a realignment.  And at the end of your session you'll want to come back again.  Until then, let's all get S.O.F.A.T.

ML - 20130622

Friday, July 5, 2013

125. Portland - Happy Hour in a Rush at Clyde Common (Portland: Southwest/Downtown)

Clyde Common is a popular stop for happy hour in Portland.  Allison and I managed to grab a couple of drinks before running off to Sarah's wedding.  We watched the bartender make a duo of whiskey sours for other customers at the bar counter while contemplating which drinks to order.

Out of Clyde Common's many creative concoctions, we chose some local brew and the Bourbon Renewal, which was made with a simple combination of lemon, cassis, and bitters.

The Bourbon Renewal can only be described as chill because that was both the temperature of the drink and the state of mind I was in while I was sipping it.  It was sweet, but it still had the bourbon essence that I was looking for.  Many friends who have visited Clyde Common have said this was their favorite drink.

The bartender also gave us a taste of this minty madness called Fernet-Branca.  Apparently his fellow colleagues love to down this during their off time to prove their alcoholic prowess to others.  All I can say is that it's not for me.  I'll brush my teeth using my old man's Sensodyne, thank you very much.

And that was it for us during this very quick happy hour.  Time for a wedding! Until next time let's all get S.O.F.A.T.

ML - 20130622

Monday, July 1, 2013

124. Portland - Back to Portlandia for More Food Carts (Portland: Southwest/Downtown)

It is time to travel again! This trip involves a stop in Portland, about a week romp in Tokyo, and a two week stay in Taipei.  The first leg of the trip began last weekend with a flight to Portland to attend a wedding.  Since I had just finished writing 12 posts about Portland last month, this quick weekend trip came at the right time... yay for more posts on food from Portlandia!

Allison and I flew out of the newly remodeled Long Beach Airport on JetBlue on Saturday morning.  If you've flown on JetBlue before, you know exactly what that means... raiding the snack basket when the flight attendant swings by! When we landed it high time for lunch.  Those in-flight snacks can only hold us over for so long...

As soon as we checked into the hotel, we headed straight for the food pods at the intersection of Southwest Alder and SW 10th Avenue.  Originally, we wanted to try the famous chicken and rice at Nong's Khao Man Gai, but this location was not open on the weekend.  No worries, we quickly found the Euro Trash cart and ordered something we could not get in California... foie grasDuck Butter, as it is listed on the menu, is a sinfully seared piece of foie gras laying on a bed of freshly cooked potato chips dripping with garlic aioli (known as their house made Nah-Nah Chips just by itself) and the drippings of the fat foie.  I felt hunger, heaven, and a heart attack all in one bite.  Bewilderment.

While foie gras on potato chips is delicious and all, it doesn't quite make a full meal.  Just around the corner and a few carts down from Euro Trash sits the E-San Thai cart, one of the many, many carts serving Thai cuisine in Portland.  There are six Thai food carts just at the pod at Alder & 10th intersection alone.  I ordered a green curry with tofu, eggplant and other vegetables, plopped myself down on a parking curb and let the sweat drip down my face.

Allie had a hunkering for meat, so she ventured over to the Number 1 Bento cart for the galbi bento.  The flavoring was not far from what we know as Korean barbecue in LA, and for just six bucks, it was a steal.  One thing though... the food comes in a plastic container, so beware of the heat from the steaming white rice while holding the box.  Ouch!

Sitting and eating on a parking curb is no easy task, but the good food makes it all worthwhile.  We won't let the food take away from the main focus of the trip... the wedding.  Which, come to think of it... this was about the time that we dropped the food to head back to the hotel to get ready.

We clean up real nice now don't we? I kid, I kid.  These Instagram filters make us look extremely airbrushed, so they look best on IG.  Congratulations Sarah and Ray! Allie and I wish you two all the best.  Until next time, let's all get S.O.F.A.T.

ML - 20130622