for January, 2011
A food grudge is hard to shake. I should know because I’ve been holding one for a couple of weeks. The object of my rancor is the Vegetarian Club from Bottega Louie. On the menu, it sounded so good: zucchini, avocado, hard-boiled egg, whole grain mustard and curry aioli on 7-grain bread. Yes, please, I’ll take that!
When the sandwich came to the table, it was beautiful—from their high ceilings to their meticulous plating, presentation is where Bottega Louie shines. But take a closer look. Camouflaged by the appetizing color scheme and cute little cups of veggies is a sandwich that makes no sense.
I’m not a stickler for tradition, but the whole point of a club sandwich is that it has two layers of filling and three pieces of bread. That’s its point of distinction. This, however, was just a series of tea sandwiches speared by a wooden stick. Unless you’re willing to chuck a few slices of bread, most mouths aren’t big enough to eat this in proper club fashion. Plus, since there are 5 pieces, you’d be left with an extra layer.
Are you grasping the gravity of the situation?
My best guacamole experience ever (what you don’t have one?) was at the Condesa DF hotel in Mexico City. We’d just arrived, and I was as hungry as I was exhausted. It’s true that some of the best tacos I’ve ever had in my life are walking distance from Condesa DF, but all I really wanted was chilaquiles, a cuba libre and some sleep.
The mid-century modern bliss of the hotel’s restaurant was exactly what we needed. And things got even better when we caught sight of the guacamole we’d ordered. It was studded with pomegranate seeds! The sweet-tart flavor of the juicy little seeds really took a simple concept to a brilliant level. One bite and all we could do was talk about how we were going to make it all the time when we got home.
Now that pomegranates are in season, we’re making good on our promise. Aside from the actual seeding part (if you want to cheat, they sell the seeds solo at Trader Joes), it’s so easy to just throw an avocado, garlic and some pomegranate seeds together. The garlic is essential as it delivers nice contrast—I add a teaspoon.
A superfood bonanza, it’s a healthy and flavorful addition to…pretty much anything: tacos, chips, salads, sandwiches, etc. Plus, if you bring it to a party, you’ll wow your friends. Eat it up!
Metro Balderas only serves carnitas on the weekends, but they make up for that by serving 8 different kinds. The most common type of pork carnitas served in Los Angeles is maciza, braised pork butt (actually cut from the shoulder). Metro Balderas serves maciza, of course, but they also cover less-frequented pig parts: cuerito (skin), trompa (snout), nana (uterus), buche (stomach), costilla (pork rib), oreja (ear), and surdita, which is a combo of all the above minus the Nana.
Metro Balderes also does something else differently: they don’t boil the meat. According to Street Gourmet LA, that’s a cheater method and the culprit behind the hard, stringy texture of so many carnitas that you come across. That problem is exactly what’s kept me from being the carnitas fanatic that I know I can be.
I’ve never really had much respect for lasagna. I blame it on the fact that I came of age in an era when it was perfectly acceptable to bring a tin of Stoffer’s to a potluck. Restaurant lasagnas, usually just assembled from jars and packages, never did much to help the cause either.
That’s not to say that I don’t eat it or enjoy it. But like an episode of Teen Mom, lasagna generally only appeals to me on the most base level. A very guilty pleasure of mine is the vegetable lasagna from Angelo’s in Alhambra, which is basically just a dish of sauce, cheese and a few veggies baked to bubbling-crispy-on-the-edges perfection.
Considering my history of lasagna derision, you can imagine my intrigue when I saw it on special at Osteria Mamma. I’ve been in love with “Mamma” Loredana Cecchinato’s cooking since La Buca was a hole in the wall, so I figured if anyone could clean up an Italian casserole, it’d be her. And it was. The lasagna at Osteria Mamma, like most of their dishes, impresses with its simplicity. The handmade noodles are thin and the ricotta is spread with restraint, giving the dish an almost delicate quality. The sweet sauce and meat keep it reasonably hearty.
All this is just proof of one thing: lasagna, I misjudged you.
P.S. As I was just saying in the comments, Osteria Mamma now has a liquor license, so while it’s more crowded, it’s also more lively. I think they’ve found their groove.
Update: Check out ESFB’s Guide to Eating in Tulum.
Whatever happened to the paleta man?
Back in the 80s, in some Los Angeles neighborhoods, the guy pushing his little cart of Mexican popsicles down the street was a common sight. Both of my grandmothers—one born in Mexico and one born in East LA—were crazy for paletas, and I could always count on their hurriedly shoving money in my hand while shouting flavor requests whenever we heard the bell.
“Fresa con leche! Limon! Piña!” Sure, my Spanish was pretty limited, but I could perfectly pronounce and identify any of the flavors once the paleta man took the lid off and let me peer into his frosty icebox on wheels. You just had to wait a few seconds for the cold smoke to settle, so you could focus on the selection.
If there’s one food item that’s been a constant in my life, it’s the quesadilla. Even though (sadly) I didn’t grow up in house where Mexican food was always on the stove, my mom was far more likely to throw a tortilla with cheese on the comal than, say, a cheese sandwich.
As a kid, I only had love for flour tortilla quesadillas, but these days, I’m all about the corn. The truth is, when you’re talking store-bought tortillas, corn is generally superior in taste and quality to flour. Plus, you can do a lot more to enhance the flavor of packaged corn tortillas—those flour disks that the Guerreros, Romeros, or (god help us) Mission make cannot be saved.
When I was younger, I had no sense of nutrition. I ate terribly unhealthy things—tons of fast food—all the time. Taco Bell and Denny’s were freaking delicious to me. Cringe. Then, I got older and realized that, for one, most fast food is not actually food, and two, healthy stuff is more satisfying in the long run.
Who would have thought?
That’s not to say I don’t indulge. As demonstrated frequently on this blog, I can be a major grubber. I love burgers, ice cream, most anything involving bacon, and other food stuff that sins are made of. I’m just more balanced now, and I mostly steer clear of the over-processed mumbo jumbo that they’re allowed to call food these days.