for July, 2010
There’s no doubt about it: LA is having the weirdest summer weather in recent history. It’s all anyone can talk about (just check your Facebook if you don’t believe me). So, when we finally got a brilliantly sunny and warm Sunday, we couldn’t resist—we had to throw a barbecue!
I served my own mixed drink creation to get the party started. I’ve named this the Maker’s Peachy Palmer. It’s a mix of Maker’s Mark, peach iced tea, and homemade lemonade. Honey was also involved. Not to brag, but it was pretty delicious. Recipe after the jump.
Along with these veggies, we also grilled some succulent chicken and lamb from Glendale’s Central Grand Market (Map It). This small market has a great selection of meat and a deli case that features some of the dreamiest hummus, labneh (check out my GCM-inspired shallot yogurt post), eggplant dishes and feta varieties around.
Last time I went to the LA Street Food Fest, I didn’t even get in. This time, it was more organized, and I actually ate some food. The lines were pretty long, but spirits were high on the Rose Bowl field, and I was able to try some great stuff.
Here’s the rundown:
First up was Boyle Heights’ Antojitos Carmen, formerly a popular Breed St. vendor and now a brick and mortar presence on Cesar Chavez Ave (map it). Well worth the wait, they were serving up potato tacos and enchiladas. The tacos dorados, filled with a mixture of potatoes and cheese, were the highlight. I couldn’t help but flood the plate with the delicious salsas.
Downtown Dogs’ hotdogs remind me of Chronis‘ on Whittier Blvd. Maybe it’s the snap that happens when you take a bite. Whatever it is, it’s a good dog, and tater tots are always an easy sell. I wanted to try the Dogzilla stand as well since their doing their version of Japa Dogs, but the line was excruciating.
Xoia, Echo Park’s new Vietnamese joint, opened to a lot of fanfare last month. So much buzz was to be expected, considering the interesting back story and promise of an exciting new concept—Vietnamese food with Mexican flair (i.e. pho tacos) was bound to spark fascination in the aftermath of Kogi mania.
But buzz will only get you so far. Currently, the actual experience at Xoia doesn’t quite live up to the hoopla, yet there’s a lot of potential here and some definite hits among the misses. As with most new restaurants, there are kinks to be worked out, but if you can tough out the confused service and uneven menu, there are good flavors to be had at Xoia.
We started with the much publicized Pho Beef Tacos. It’s a fun idea and they looked beautiful, but the execution was lacking. Corn tortillas are filled with the beef used to flavor their pho, but the meat was a little limp and too greasy. A little crackle and more robust seasoning were in order. The house-made salsa, however, was delicious—smoky and thick with a nice kick.
Things started to look up with the Banh Xeo, a crepe made with coconut milk and filled with shrimp and pork. The richness was tamed by the crisp freshness of lettuce and bean sprouts, making it a satisfying appetizer.
The Mi Quang (pictured at the top of the post) was good. Hiding underneath lettuce, peanuts and crispy rice crackers, were fat yellow rice noodles, shrimp and pork that tasted like carnitas (that’s a compliment). There’s also a bit of broth in that big bowl.
The blueberry guy at the farmers’ market broke the bad news to me last weekend. He said blueberries are almost over for the season. “Noooooooooo!” I cried. But to no avail. He told me it’s at the point were for ever one he picks, he throws away five. Sigh.
I thought I’d pay tribute to the little superfruit with a recipe for Berry Cupcakes. I think they’re so cute, and they’re really easy to make. Plus, they garner a lot of “oohs” and “ahhhs.”
All I did was follow the white cake recipe I found on the Food Network. Then, I just pushed a few blueberries into the batter and baked.
For the frosting, I follow this Luscious Strawberry Frosting recipe. Then I just garnished with a blueberry on top. Easy, and it’s still not too hot to run the oven!
A block away from the pandemonium of Bottega Louie is the cozy and casual Colori Kitchen. Though I’m a fan of both restaurants, when I’m in the mood for Italian and Downtown, I tend to opt for the more accessible Colori. But it’s not just their “hole in the wall” appeal that lures me, there’s also the fresh pasta, the burrata, and the no-corkage fee BYOB policy—a trifecta of trattoria bliss.
The menu at Colori Kitchen is relatively small and refreshingly simple. Chef Luigi Barducci Contessi, Italian born and formerly the executive chef at Ca’ Brea, has created a menu that relies on flavor and quality without too much adornment. The enthusiastic yet no-frills execution is reminiscent of La Buca back before the expansion compromised it.
This burrata appetizer is a good example of the Colori approach. It’s just a few slices of the decadent cheese, garnished with salad and drizzled with olive oil. It’s not overdone or dressed up beyond recognition. Thank goodness because in the case of burrata, the cheese really should stand alone.
Colori makes a good ravioli. The night we went, they had a meat ravioli, filled with pork, chicken and veal (pictured at the top of this post), on special. The large pillows of ravioli were tender and the flavors of the different meats were surprisingly distinct. The mushroom sauce was rich but not overbearing, much like the creamy walnut sauce that covered this Pumpkin Ravioli. The crunch of the walnut pieces added a nice contrast to the soft texture of the pumpkin filling without going into the dreaded pumpkin pie territory. The whole dish had an unexpected lightness.
Ordering calamari steak is always a huge risk. A lot of times it’s chewy and overcooked, but that was not a problem here. This one had a melty quality, and the citrus added a zesty kick to the otherwise even flavor. The salad made it the perfect summer dish.
Summer is finally, visibly here, and the bbq invites are starting to roll in. Sure, you can promise to bring chips or beer, but that’s no fun. I prefer easy offerings that look like they took a lot of effort, like this Berry Trifle, for instance.
It looks and tastes like a masterpiece, but it only takes about 20 minutes to make. If you happen to have a trifle bowl, it will really up the wow-factor.
Here’s how to do it.
Highland Park has been called “the taco capital of Los Angeles” a well-earned title, considering the innumerable taco trucks, stands and shops that line its streets. No matter your poison— al pastor, carne asada, tripa, chorizo, cabeza…you’ll find it here without much trouble.
While most of the “Best Tacos in HP” attention gets lavished on La Estrella, my vote goes to the unnamed stand on York Blvd. and Outlook Ave., which serves one of one of the best al pastor tacos I’ve ever had. No kidding. They’re juicy and a little fatty with a sweetness that’s complemented by the heat of fresh salsa. We actually found this place during an obsessive search to find some worthy tacos after a trip to Mexico City ruined us.
They set up at night in front of the tiny blue East LA Auto building across the street and a few blocks up from Villa Sombrero. The stand features a spit topped with the very necessary slab of pineapple. If you’re lucky (or if you just ask nicely), you’ll get a big, sweet, citrusy chunk sliced along with your pastor, which is chopped up and cooked to tender-with-crispy-bits perfection while you watch and yearn.
The only downside is that the tortillas are not made on the spot. They are, however, dipped in the grease of the giant pan where the chorizo, tripa and maybe a corazone or two, sizzle. The result is a moist, greasy (but not too greasy) tortilla with a slight meaty taste. Delicious and addictive.
- Kelly at Echo Park Now shows you the great stuff you can find at the Echo Park Farmer’s Market.
- Eat, Drink & Be Merry has some tasty pics from Yatai Pop Up at Breadbar.
- Bandini from The Great Taco Hunt eats some perfect tacos from the Tacos El Korita truck in East LA.
- Grumble Grumble tries the Goa Pork Curry from the India Jones Truck and loves it.
Don’t forget: The Boyle Heights Farmer’s Market starts tonight! 3pm-8pm with 25 vendors.
Have a great weekend!
It’s not easy for Pho-loving Eastsiders to satisfy their desires. Sure, you can head out to San Gabriel Valley for the phenomenal stuff, but that’s not always practical. There are a few options closer by—Gingergrass, Pho Café, Blue Hen and The Good Girl Dinette—but, honestly, none of those places ever really do it for me.
When I’m in need of noodles, and I want to keep it local, I head over to Lemongrass in Eagle Rock. It’s not Golden Deli , but it is solid. The ingredients are quality, the flavors are traditional, the menu is sizeable and the service is friendly…all very necessary components for a go-to neighborhood pho place.
The soup here is very good. It probably won’t blow your mind, but it won’t disappoint either. They serve the standards: rare beef (pictured here), well done beef, meat ball, shrimp, chicken, etc. I usually go for the Rare Beef Pho, but I will say it is a little light on the beef. The noodle to meat ratio is definitely a bit off, but the nice, rich flavor of the broth almost makes up for it.
My other standby is the Vegetarian Pho (pictured at the top of this post), made with lots of baked tofu, bok choy, mushrooms, and vegan broth that tastes like more than just bland, murky water. And that’s no small accomplishment. Lemongrass actually has plenty of tasty vegetarian options, including egg rolls, various vermicelli dishes and their popular Shredded Tofu and Sweet Potato String Sandwich.
The spring rolls are a must at Lemongrass. The ones pictured here are beef and shrimp, but they serve 6 different types, including meaty and veggie varieties. I’ve tried most, and I’ve yet to be disappointed. I know it’s not that tough to make a good spring roll, but the important thing is freshness, and that’s where Lemongrass excels. Somebody, hand me the Sriracha.
They do serve beer, but consider ordering the Vietnamese Lemonade, a tart, bubbly, sugary treat that goes well with everything.
I recently enjoyed a delicious dinner with friends at Cube on La Brea. If you’ve never been, I really recommend it, especially if you’re a cheese lover–they feature 85 different varieties from all over the world. It’s where I first fell in love with aged gouda, so I’m forever grateful.
Cube’s always-seasonal menu is filled with plenty cheese-centric dishes, including the Heirloom Tomato and Fresh Peach Salad, which was such a standout of the wine and small plates feast we had, that I had to recreate it at home.
This is a very simple salad–peaches, heirloom tomatoes, fresh basil, olive oil and balsamic vinegar–but the flavors are out of hand. The salad at Cube includes buffalo mozzarella, but we went full-force with burrata, which is more decadent. When the cream spills out, it mixes so nicely with the oil and vinegar. Make sure you have some bread on hand to sop it up!